Worship Words-Prayer of Illumination

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In this Sunday’s readings there is a theme of staying with one you respect and staying where things are amazing. Instead of allowing us to always stay, sometimes God calls us away. Sometimes away is off the mountaintop back to our ordinary lives. Sometimes away means saying good-bye to a mentor or friends or our plans for how things should be. Our prayer for illumination before reading Scriptures is a time for us to open ourselves to where God is calling us and where God might be leading us away from where we’d prefer to be. Let us pray.

Holy One, We make great plans, and you surprise us with different plans. We turn to your Word expecting to hear what we’ve always heard, and you urge us to open our ears to new possibilities. We will try. Speak to us through the words of your Holy Scripture, and we will try to listen as if for the first time. Amen.

Book Review-A Long Way Gone

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A Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah

Emotional Response-3

Scholarly Response-1

Years ago, a colleague of mine encouraged me to read this book. I am glad I finally did. This is Ishmael Beah’s story of how the war in his home country of Sierra Leone affected him. He reminisces about his childhood before the war. He tells us how unexpectedly his life was changed forever when his village was destroyed by the rebels. He spends years on his own and with a group of other young boys struggling to survive. And then he becomes a child soldier. If your heart wasn’t already broken, this part of his story will break it. My favorite part (although still not easy to listen to) is the story of his rehabilitation after his years of fighting.

This story is difficult and awful and maybe this is why it took me so long to pick up this book. I listened to the book on CD which is read by the author. Hearing his stories in his own voice was very emotional for me. There were times when I wanted to swoop in and save him. And yet, I kept listening allowing him to tell me his story. It is not easy to listen to his stories of killing people and doing drugs and think about how young he was. It is horrific to hear how he and others resisted rehabilitation. It is hard to hear how much the boys hurt and abused those who were trying to help them as they began the rehabilitation process. The good news is that those working to help stuck with it and loved the boys even when the boys seemed unloveable and when they thought they were unworthy of love.

This book is not like the other books I have recommended so far. It received a low scholarly score because that isn’t the aim of the book. It received an average emotional score because I wanted to stop listening because I hoped if I stopped listening his awful story would never have happened. I kept listening because he and others like him need to tell their stories. And we need to listen.

I’m glad I read this book. I recommend it for anyone who wants to know what life is like for too many children in our world whose childhood’s are stolen from them due to situations outside their control. I recommend this book for anyone who remembers hearing about the war in Sierra Leone and wants to hear firsthand what it was like there. I recommend it for anyone who loves children and is willing to listen to horrible stories of violence and abuse and tragedy so that we might protect all of God’s children and do our best to make sure this stops happening.

My New Tea Cabinet

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My husband and I are in the process of moving into a new home. Moving is stressful and overwhelming. To make myself feel at home in the new house, the first thing I moved in was my tea. It made me feel so good to see my tea in its own special place. I hope that you have a place in your home for whatever it is that inspires you and brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be a big place. This tea cabinet is very small, and yet it works well for all my teas. If you don’t have a space set aside for that which brings you peace and happiness, I hope you’ll look around your home and find a place for yourself.

Words for Worship-Five Finger Prayer

file000846384716The Five Finger Prayer is not my creation. I’m sharing it because I believe praying is important and I know most of can use reminders to pray more often. This is a different and fun way to do it. I like it because it works for all ages. Why not give it a try and if it is new to you, share this idea with someone else.

Start by looking at your hand. You’ll be using your hand to remind you of those in need of prayer.

Your Thumb-Your thumb is closest to you and reminds you to pray for those who are closest to you. Pray for and give thanks for your family and friends.

Your Pointer-Pray for those who point you in the right direction. Who leads you? Who are the ones to whom you listen? Pray for those who guide and direct you and pray that you’ll be open to hearing and listening to their words.

Your Tallest Finger-Pray for those in positions of power. Pray for our government and all our leaders. Pray for those with whom you agree and disagree.

Your Ring Finger-This finger is your weakest finger. Pray for those who are seen as the weakest or lacking in power. Remember in your prayers those who are ill, hungry, living with violence or war, homeless, or lonely.

Your Pinky-Finally, you can pray for yourself.

I’ve recently been reflecting on how often our Scriptures remind us that Jesus prayed. In this coming Sunday’s gospel reading, we’ll hear, “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1: 35). If the five finger prayer can enhance your prayer life, I hope you’ll use it. And if it doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too.

 

 

 

Bengal Spice

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At the suggestion of one of my readers, I tried Bengal Spice. What a great suggestion! To quote the Blendmaster’s Notes on the side of the box, “Brimming with cinnamon, ginger, cardamon and cloves, a cup of our aromatic Bengal Spice tea is like a trip to an exotic spice market in a faraway land. The adventurous blend is our caffeine-free interpretation of Chai, a piquant brew traditionally made with black tea. Try Bengal Spice with milk and sugar for a true Chai experience.”

I love chai tea and chai tea lattes. This tea works well with milk and sugar or with just milk or just plain. As soon as I open the box, I smell the tea and smile. It smells just as good while it is steeping. And it tastes just as good as it smells. Give this tea a try. You’ll be glad you did!

Worship Words-A Winter Prayer

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God of All Seasons, We find ourselves in the midst of winter again. Snow may soon be swirling around us. Help us not to be too jealous of people who get more snow or people who live in Florida. Keep us and all your children safe during winter weather. We pray for those who do not have safe and warm shelter and all those who are working to provide food and shelter to those in need. If we find ourselves inside our homes for longer than we’d like, calm us down so we can enjoy a cup of tea and a good book. If we find ourselves inside with small children, give us the creativity to keep them busy. No matter how long it feel like winter lasts, Loving God, we know that Spring is coming. We know that new life is growing now even though we cannot see it. Help us to see the beauty in all the seasons. Amen.

Today’s picture was taken at Falls Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Book Review-This I Believe

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This I Believe 2 (audiobook)

Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-3

Listening to 75 people read their own 500 word essays about what they believe was inspiring and wonderful. The essays included beliefs in everything from semi-permanent hair dye to faithfulness to tolerance to baking. While I didn’t agree with each person’s essay, I still found their words intriguing. These essays made me wonder what I would write. Although I haven’t taken the time to sit and write my own essay, I have been thinking about what I’d write and I am inspired to lead others in this practice. You can hear essays and learn about how to write your own essay here.

This website also includes information about how to do this practice in your congregation. I’m looking forward to leading others through this process in my next congregation, and as soon as I finish my essay, I’ll be glad to share it with you too.

I highly recommend the This I Believe essays to everyone. Prepare to be challenged and inspired. Prepare to laugh and cry. Prepare to ponder what you believe as you agree and disagree with the essays you hear. These essays remind us of how much we have in common, how much we need to hear each other’s stories, and how much we need to tell our own stories.

Worship Words-Prayer of Confession

Prayer of Confession

God, we are often like Jonah. We run away from you and wonder why you are so kind to people who don’t deserve your kindness. Somedays, we’d like to go away and pout like Jonah. Open our eyes, so we can see things differently. You are kind to us even when we don’t deserve it. We want to accept your love. Give us the strength to love our neighbors. And help us to repent like the people of Nineveh did. Forgive us, God. Amen.

 

Assurance of Forgiveness

Find comfort and forgiveness in these words from Jonah 3:10. “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”

Beloved children of God, we are all forgiven. Amen.

 

Jonah’s story is only four chapters long. Why not read his story this week?

 

Book Review-Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup

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Emotional Response-5

Scholarly Response-4

Kate Braestrup is the chaplain for the Maine Warden Service. I first heard her story while reading her first book, Here If You Need Me. Her first book is a story of love and loss and grief after the death of her husband. I loved that book and highly recommend it! This book is her look at love and marriage. She blends humor, Scripture, and real stories of real people into a book you can’t put down (or in my case a CD I couldn’t stop listening to!).

I have discovered that reviewing a book I heard on CDs is a different task than a book I can hold in my hand and refer back to when looking for quotes and main ideas. This book worked well on CD. The author read it, and as a pastor, she has a great speaking voice, and it sounded authentic.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys memoirs, anyone who loves others even when it isn’t easy, anyone who is married, has been married, or is considering getting married. This book gives us an honest look at love from the Christian perspective with all its imperfections, struggles, and joys.

When describing her job, Kate said, “I bear witness to the ways love resurrects itself in the face of loss.” (This statement was so meaningful that I stopped the CD, so I could memorize it. I think this is the task of any pastor and any Christian.)

When asked to lead a discussion on sex and sexuality for her daughter’s class, she had the class of 8th graders answer this question-Nothing matters more than ________? Her answer was love. The students had a variety of answers. The author believes that however you finish that statement shows what you treasure the most.

When discussing marriage with a soon to be wed couple, she said, “You aren’t promising to feel love but to do love.”

“Being parted by death is your best case scenario” when describing marriages and whether the couple should say “’til death do us part.”

Chinese Tea

Recently, I had the opportunity to taste tea with my dear friend, Heather, and her three-year old daughter. We called it a tea party and had a wonderful time.

We were instructed to select teas we’d like to sample. Our young hostess steeped the tea for only 5 seconds and then poured it into our aroma cup.

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We placed the sipping cup on top of the aroma cup and poured the tea into our sipping cup. photo 2-21 Then we were instructed to roll the aroma cup between our hands and enjoy the smell of the tea. Finally, we could sample the tea from our sipping cup.

We enjoyed the White Mint and Pomegranate White. Sleeping Beauty smelled good but tasted bitter. Hawaiian Paradise was the favorite of our hostess, but Heather and I did not enjoy it as much as she did. Christmas Tea smelled like Christmastime, but it didn’t taste like Christmas.

Overall, it was a great experience. We enjoyed Music City Tea and recommend anyone in the Franklin, Tennessee area stops by to enjoy a variety of teas.

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