Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Psalm 27 (A Preacher's Psalm)

I stand to claim the Rock beneath my feet,
the Foundation of my life.
Sing in triumph, o my soul.
Shout out: "How great is my God!"

The Rock is my confidence and my conviction,
the very boldness in my step.
Dance with joy, my soul, to your core.
Lift a hand to the Spirit's power.

Through my weakness and fear, the Rock is my comfort;
When my own strength fails, the Foundation is firm.
O my tongue, preach that God is good.
Prophesy that the love of God never fails.

Even in the midnights of life's trials,
My Rock shines through like the noonday sun.
Rise up, my soul, to live this day.
Proclaim the good news until you are hoarse:
"The Living Rock shall not be moved."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Psalm 122:1 (part two)

I was glad when they said to me:
"Let us go into the house of the LORD;
Let us go home."

Imagine a place where you can worship God in your bare feet--not because the dress code is so casual but because you are so comfortable, so at home.

To be at home...in church. It's not about shoes or bare feet, of course, nor whether you dress up or dress down for worship. It's about every sense--mind, body, spirit--receiving the consistent message when you enter that space: "Here you are safe. Here you are loved. Here you are supported to figure out, to reassemble, to revive your best and most whole self. Here you are home." A message gathered through the touch of your naked toes (should you choose to go barefoot!) on the carpet; from the smell of freshly broken bread on the table; in the familiar sight of candles standing tall and bright, right there where they always are; by the sound of voices greeting you; and (lest we forget) through the taste of fish fry after worship or red jello with pineapples or no-crust-white-bread-triangle finger sandwiches arranged in circles and piled high.

Mind, body, spirit, all receiving the good news: You are home, be at peace. Let your body rest here as it cannot rest out in the wilderness. Let your mind spark and rekindle with ideas and inspirations after a week of mind-numbing routines, mind-battering stresses. Let your spirit soak up living water. Reconnect yourself in all of your parts...live in wholeness. Let the tears run if you are sad. Let the chuckle burst into full laughter if you are joyful. Let your passion find direction and fellowship for the journey. You are safe to be your whole self here in this home, here in God's house.

Just imagine: feeling home-happy when you step into the house of the LORD!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Psalm 122:1 (part one)

Wooden floorboards, knotted and worn.
Curl-up places. Blankets.
Windows bright,
Like the souls of those
In whose homes I can rest,
Secure. These are my sanctuaries.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bedtime Prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my fears to keep.
I ask my God: these burdens, take;
And while I sleep, new dreams to make.
Be my peace and be my breath;
In every fiber, let me rest.
Chase the doubts that haunt my night,
Bring mercies new in morning light.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prayer at the Crossroads

I sit at the crossroads and wait,
expectantly at first:
A messenger is coming! The eyes of my soul watch for it:
A messenger is coming, bearing a word of guidance
for this decision at the intersection.
Is that the one, there in the distance?
No, no, not yet.
I pace while I wait, then look, startled:
the paths extending away from this crossroads
are multiplying.
Again I scan for a sign, a beacon, any hint of direction.
How long must I wait, O God of ways and wonders?
Who is coming with map in hand
to set my feet on a right path?
I watch.
I stare into the distance.
I throw a pebble of a prayer into the air:
perhaps it will fall toward one road or another
and I will know where to begin.
Let your messenger's feet be swift, O God,
do not delay in sending your word!
Cause a post to be planted by the side of the road
and cover it with signs...
Stir a proud tiger lily to dance in the breeze
and bend toward your path for me...
Loosen the tongue of a friend
with encouragement and wisdom...
But do not leave me here without a message,
without a direction,
without a vision.
Burst open a spring of hope,
even here in the middle of the crossroads;
overflow for me
with the good news that there is still a vision for the appointed time.

(Habakkuk 1:3)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why I Go To Church Camp

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania: exploring cornfield rows, climbing trees, and running barefoot whenever possible. I wore high heels and dresses only when the occasion required it (namely, Sunday morning church or Halloween).

It seems helpful to start with this tidbit of personal history, because many people who know me today have no idea that I know how to "dress down" (or at least, they've never seen it in person): ripped jeans, t-shirt, muddy shoes, hands rough from building campfires.

As a professional adult, I love my high heels (love them!), but once a year I put them away in favor of old sneakers, and I spend seven days leading young people through the joys of outdoor, overnight, send-you-home-with-a-suitcase-full-of-rank-clothes, church camp! This week marks my 14th year at Hartman Center, the much-beloved UCC outdoor ministry facility where I began my church camping career at the age of ten, and my 20th summer overall participating in outdoor ministry programs.

Here's why I continue to return to church camp as an adult:

- to watch kids discover that you can learn something about the nature of God by hiking a mountain;

- to get caught in the pouring rain and not care;

- to see another side of church life;

- to marvel at the ferns and rhododendron, the mist at dawn and the stars at night;

- to remember how to play: to stain my hands with tie-dye, launch water balloons from a slingshot, and sing ridiculous songs like "Stirring the Purple Stew";

- to teach another generation to observe "Here is God" in the created world and in all people;

- to be quiet;

- to affirm the goodness and worth of every child;

- to be startled and scared every year by the same seven-foot-tall tree stump that becomes a standing bear each evening at dusk;

- to soak up God's joy in a different kind of sanctuary;

- to remember that
God is like the wind, wrapping around us and hugging us...
like an ant, strong enough to carry us...
like water, cooling and refreshing us...
like a tree, shading us from intense heat...
like the sun, brightening our lives.
[These phrases developed in conversation with my campers this week.]

Take the time to experience God beyond your church building through an outdoor ministry program near you. Can I recommend Hartman Center (www.hartmancenter.com) and Camp Mount Luther (www.campmountluther.org)?