Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Blessing

With the rising sun
as with the rising new year:
may your faith be bright-eyed
with hope;
may your voice
be quick with song;
may your every breath
take in grace;
may your eyes see wonder,
your ears hear the trees whisper,
and your hands open wide
to convey welcome;
and may your load be light --
not because you are without cares,
but because you remember
that God is enough.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

These Days of Christmas

So Love has come,
finally,
fully,
no longer a heavenly concept
or ontological mystery
but a Life
of breath and flesh
showing that Love lived
is possible
in the fullest --
not nuanced or strategized,
not compromised or politicized,
but simply expressed
in touch
in bread
in questions
in fishing tales
in fellowship.
And in these days of Christmas,
the most basic question is
do we believe
that Love
lived, and
that Love
can be
lived?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Writing to God: Kids' Edition

I'm thrilled that the cover image of my upcoming book -- Writing to God: Kids' Edition -- is now posted on sites like Amazon! We're one step closer to the book's Spring 2012 release from Paraclete Press!

Of course I'm biased :) but Writing to God: Kids' Edition will be unique among children's prayer books, because it doesn't merely provide prayers for children to read or memorize; it engages and empowers children to find their own words for prayer using everyday experiences!

Check out the cover....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

At Last!

At last!
Like a sigh,
like a reconnection,
like the end of a work week,
like a moment of peace amidst a noisy household,
like a purple crocus breaking through the chilly spring ground,
like a child who has been waiting to open a present,
like a pregnant woman finally entering delivery...
...at last!

At last
the waiting of Advent
is over, and
Christmas is finally here --
God is finally here!

All through Advent
we have been allowed
only peeks,
glimpses and signs,
just hints
of what will come
and of what could be.

At last
it is here!

Finally
God takes on flesh,
and the cry of an infant
gives us hope
that things will not always be
what they are now,
that life will not always be
what it is now.

At last,
a baby!

At last,
hope!

At last,
God
not holding back!

In a few days
we will ask ourselves,
"What next?"

In a few days
God will ask of us,
"What next?
What will you do,
how will you live
now
that I have not held back;
now that I am here
to oppose fear,
to offer hope?"

In a few days,
we'll start looking ahead again,
impatiently desiring
the next big thing,
restlessly longing
for a better fix of the world,
for a faster-acting Savior
who doesn't rely
on the limitations
of flesh
and goodwill.

But for tonight
what is a few days away
can wait.

Right now
we soak in
the peace.

Right now
we are satisfied
by this blessing.

Now, at last,
we believe
that Love comes,
that God permeates,
that the Holy Wild Boundless Light
draws us in like a child's smile.

Now, at last,
joy
faith
hope
come alive.

Now, at last,
the long nights of watchfulness end
and we can let our guard down
to welcome God.

At last!

Friday, December 23, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

"Fear not!"
I am holding on to it.

"Fear not!"
I am resting with the satisfaction of it.

"Fear not!"
I am challenged, awestruck by it.

"Fear not!"
I am freed to sing it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Infant Jesus,
Soften my eyes into a smile,
Lighten my spirit with your giggles,
Focus my heart on the joy
of holding you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Are we there yet? Is it time yet? Do you think, O God, that we're fully prepared for the destination -- to receive you in our neighbors, to love our enemies with the same adoration with which we welcome a newborn, to carol unreservedly alongside the poor & homeless shepherds, to believe like children that goodness and love are enough to bring a miracle, to marvel at a familiar story that remains unfinished?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Put on an extravagant spectacle, O Savior,
to disrupt our pallid routines.
Dance. Tease. Provoke.
Goad us with a parody
of our vain ambitions
and shallow truisms.
Like a searing comedian,
point us out to be stingy fools.
Name our asinine inconsistencies,
our disbeliefs and our contradictions.
Laugh that we have marveled at the cactus
when there are stunning flowers
about to bloom
in the desert.
By your birth, mock us
for the egos that we are
... and then rescue us, too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Jesus:

If, in fact, you are so brilliant,
why ever would you allow yourself
to be eclipsed?

If, in fact, You are so generously present,
why would you permit starvation
and isolation?

If, in fact, you know a better way,
why do you waste time
with wandering?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Praise the LORD, all the earth!
Sharp-edged mountains
and blistering deserts,
plaintive seagull and
darting minnow.

Praise the LORD, all galaxies!
Uncharted stars and
guiding Gourd,
cosmic dust
and crashing comets.

Praise the LORD, all people!
From skyscraper rooftops
and street corners,
in solo and
resounding chorus.

Praise the LORD,
oh praise the LORD!

Friday, December 16, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)


I pray for light (Light!)
to sustain me today

with flickers of warmth
and laughter

with the steady glow of love
and friendship

with the bright joy of
anticipation

with the still-burning hope
of compassion.

I give thanks for light (Light!)
that encourages me onward

with gleams that illuminate
the purpose

and shadows that obscure
the details

with playful shimmers
that tease my uncertainty

and glares of the holy
that compel me to peace.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

For health and strength and daily bread,
For breath and for the paths we tread,

For love which keeps our hearts exposed,
For scars and dreams that make us grow,

For sunset's fire and ocean's storm,
For starry nights and blankets warm,

For stories, for hope, for morning dew,
We give you thanks, O LORD.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

I'm imagining you in an E.T. moment, dear God: with an outstretched finger lighting up to touch each one of us with love and healing. Please be like E.T. today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

breathing
to find God not absent
but within

breathing
to appreciate God in silence
despite the noise

breathing
to pulse with God's peace
in my core

breathing
to savor God's fullness
and mine

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joy: All Decked Out

Joy!
JOY!
Joy!
Let God whisper it in your soul.

Joy.
Not happiness,
not that moment of elation when things come together
or that gleeful feeling like when you're about to dive into dessert.
Not happiness...

Joy.
Not thrill,
not that rush of hype that is always temporary
like the thrill of a roller caster that takes you high before falling.
Not thrill...

Joy.
Not pleasure,
not that feel-good that excites our senses
and leaves us craving more and more and more.
Not pleasure.

Joy!

Joy: the exultation of a sunrise, glowing pink through the fog.

Joy: the soul-satisfying assurance of love from a friend, from a lover, from family.

Joy: the confidence of faith that no one and no thing can take God's presence from you -- not death or life, not slander or condemnation, nothing in the heavens and nothing in hell, no power or ruler, nothing in all creation can take God from you.

Mary -- pregnant, unwed, teenage Mary -- claims joy
not because her own circumstances are so spectacularly happy,
but because she believes that her pregnancy is holy evidence
that God is still struggling to relieve the hungry and powerless,
that God hasn't forgotten those who cry out for a savior.

She sings: "God has done great things for me,
and great things for all people.
God has shattered the proud and lifted up the lowly;
God has filled the hungry with good things
and remembered his mercy.
And God will do it again."

Isaiah -- persevering, disillusioned Isaiah -- proclaims joy
to a depressed people home from exile only to meet more hardship,
proclaims joy and faith and hopefulness in God for the brokenhearted,
announces that joy will be like a bright garland or a flower lei
placed around the necks of the devastated and the weary.

Isaiah says, "Like a bride adorns herself with jewels,
like royalty all decked out in robes,
I will give those who mourn a fresh garland instead of ashes,
the sweetest perfume to dispel the stench of destruction,
bright clothes for the holy days even though the temple isn't rebuilt."

Joy is the confidence of faith that no one and no situation can take God's presence from you: not teenage pregnancy, not exile and displacement, not dishonor, not seasons of death, not fears of money or loss of power. Joy is the confidence that God is still working, that God is still struggling to relieve and to save and to heal.

Joy!
JOY!
Joy!
Let God sing it in your soul.

Let God drape joy around your neck like a sparkling necklace that you can't afford. Let God drape joy on your door like a fresh evergreen wreath that shows beauty and life even in the dead season of winter. Let God drape joy on your shoulders like a brand new winter coat that isn't faded or patched or hand-me-down.

Let God show us joy like bright colorful lights sparkling across a world that has filled us with cynicism. Let God instill us with joy like the sweetest hot chocolate warming our stomachs (except it doesn't disrupt our sugar levels or get cold after sitting for too long). Let God show us joy that is so far beyond holiday happiness or the thrill of presents or the waning pleasure of hearing tinny Christmas music at the mall.

Let God show us joy and get us all decked out with faith to comprehend:
a garland of flowers amidst a pile of ashes,
a celebrated birth amidst uncertain times,
a song and a dance amidst sorrow and mourning,
glad confidence amidst holy mystery,
exuberance amidst doubt,
joy at all times.

Joy: because God's presence is unfailing.

Joy: because God's working is ongoing.

Joy: at all times!

Amen.

12/11/2011 sermon preached at Grace United Church of Christ, based on Luke 1:47-55 and Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

A commissioning (based on Psalm 119:171-175), for this night and
for the upcoming week and throughout our Advent waiting:


Let your voice be full of God's peace.
Let your tongue sing with God's praise.

Cling close to God, whose hand
is always ready to help and steady you.

Delight in God's ways, and
let God's goodness be your satisfaction.

Live with the grace of God,
the love of Jesus, and
the courage of the Spirit.

Friday, December 9, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

As I crawl into bed and close my eyes,
let my spirit reflect:
"This day was enough.
Each moment, each interaction
is done. God was there
and God is here.
More than enough!"

As I rise in the morning to a new day,
let my spirit rejoice:
"This day is enough!
It is a gift, whatever it may hold.
And God will be there
as God is here.
More than enough!"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Soft Light, Holy Light,
be bright enough
for these worrisome days
when humanity is devalued
and deaths scoffed in public.

Quiet Light, Holy Light,
be bright enough
for these uncertain times
when power parades unmasked
and poverty is derided as personal sin.

Pulsing Light, Holy Light,
be bright enough
to ignite the fires of prophets,
to swell an outpouring of compassion
and radiate hope in this long sobering night.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me ... to provide for those who mourn, to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. (Isaiah 61:1-3, adapted)

Come, much-needed God.

Adorn the shoulders of your weary people with garlands of joy.

Drape a lei of compassion around the necks of the impoverished and the poor in spirit.

Gift bright festive clothing to those overlooked and bullied.

Bejewel the weary and crown the exiled with gems of courage and pearls of holy hope.

Come, much-needed God. Be lavish in bestowing joy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

At night comes the haunting, a ringing of silence, a depth that the daylight does not understand: the intersection of terrible fear and wild possibility: the faint gleam of stars in absence of the sun: a space for dissonance otherwise unimagined and disallowed: the soul at peace conflicting with the restless heart. At night comes the haunting, the dream and the nightmare both: that is, the Holy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Ah, sweet Joy!
You have blessed me with breath today.

Ah, sweet Joy!
You have called me to labor today.

Ah, sweet Joy!
You have made me laugh and dance today.

Ah, sweet Joy!
You have whispered "There is more" to my heart today.

Ah, sweet and beautiful Joy!
You have wrapped me with love and dear ones today.

Ah, sweet Joy!
I will rejoice and show you a grateful spirit today.

Friday, December 2, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

Listen. Sssshh.

Peace.
Peace be with you
like the sun warming your face,
like a soft teddy bear in your arms for comfort,
like the sight of a blue heron standing still along a creek.
Peace.

Do you hear God's whisper?

Peace.
Peace in your tossing & turning.
Now turn, in your turning, toward me
like Orion ever turning toward Taurus in the sky,
like a cat returning to a fireplace hearth for warmth.
Peace.

Hear God speaking peace to all people.

Peace.

Based on Psalm 85:8.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

While We Wait (Praying through Advent)

A prayer between us, and just for you:

Peace to you. God's peace,
for the living of each day and
the striving of each relationship.
Peace. May you know God within you.
Peace; may I acknowledge the same.
And where there is any pain,
around or betwixt or within,
may there be healing --
the healing through peace that begins
deep in the mystery of our cells
that exist, suspended,
in unseen relationship
with one another.
Peace to you, my friend,
within and echoing beyond
our colliding little universes.