Thursday, December 31, 2015

Remembering & Celebrating a Life well llived

To the glory of God and in memory of Eugenia Cross

this week one of your saints died.
She would not have claimed the name saint,
but that's what she was --
Her life, a witness to you and your love.

you consoled Martha and Mary in their distress;
draw near to us who mourn,
and dry the tears of those who weep.
You wept at the grave of Lazarus, your friend;
comfort us in our sorrow.
You raised the dead to life;
give to our beloved eternal life.
You promised paradise to the repentant thief;
bring us all to the joys of heaven.
Washed in baptism
and anointed with the Holy Spirit,
give us fellowship with all your saints.
Nourished at your table on earth,
welcome us at your table in the heavenly kingdom.

she has fought the good fight;
she has finished the race;
she has kept the faith.
Receive her into your eternal embrace,
the same embrace that brought her into life,
the same grace that breathed her first and her last breath.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Moved to Tears of Joy

So Christmas is always a hard time for me.

I miss my grandparents. I miss the trip over the mountains into Tennessee.  Leaving in southeastern North Carolina, I miss the cooler weather (80 degrees on Christmas Day!)

As a pastor, this is my BUSIEST time of year... addition rehearsals for musicals and cantatas, additional end of the year meetings and evaluations, additional worship services, phone calls, and visits that need to be made but some don't happen...

Also as pastor, I'm mindful of the pain many are feeling, the dark nights, the deep hurts, the grief, the emptiness, the loneliness.  My prayers are continually filled with longing for the hope of Christmas, the light that breaks into the darkness.

So I've begun a practice of looking for hope, watching for signs of Christ's coming.

There are many:
the gifts of love shared over meals,
the glow of candlelight in churches,
Christmas meals shared
in soup kitchens and food pantries and churches serving those in need,
carrying a homemade loaf of banana bread to an elderly neighbor and being invited into their house and into their lives as they tell stories...

This year there is a song I heard online.
The background is busy.
There is talking and laughing.
It's not a romantic ideal.
It's real life.
It's about the child to be born,
but it holds real life.
The song's refrain reminds us
that Christmas is not about me --
Christ was born "for the good of us all!"
And his birth is just the beginning.
There is life; there is teaching; there is healing;
there is challenge; there is death; there is resurrection.
"for the good of us all!"

This year I was moved to tears of joy with this song:


In a byre near Bethlehem
Passed by many a wandering stranger
The most precious Word of Life
Was heard gurgling in a manger
For the good of us all

By the Galilean Lake
Where the people flocked for teaching
The most precious Word of Life
Fed their mouths as well as preaching
For the good of us all

And He’s here when we call Him
Bringing health, love, and laughter
To life now and ever after
For the good of us all

Quiet was Gethsemane
Camouflaging priest and soldier
The most precious Word of Life
Took the world's weight on His shoulder
For the good of us all

On the hill of Calvary
Place to end all hope of living
The most precious Word of Life
Breathed His last and died, forgiving
For the good of us all

In a garden, just at dawn
Near the grave of human violence
The most precious Word of Life
Cleared His throat and ended silence
For the good of us all

see more here:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How long will our prayers go unanswered?

PSALM 80:1-7
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!
Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O LORD God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.
Lord Jesus,
born among angels, and shepherds, and wise men,
and ordinary servants like Joseph and Mary,
Stir up your might
and come save us!
Shine your face upon us;
brighten your light with us;
then we may be saved.

How long will you
let our cries for help go unanswered?
Tears, fears, worries, changes, doubts, uncertainty...

Just like in days of old,
we are walking in deep darkness.
Shine your light upon us again.
We need You --
a lamp to our feet,
a light to our path,
a beacon of hope on the shoreline,
a pillar of fire at night,
a star to lead the way.

Let your face shine on us
and we will be saved!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Not Fear but Peace

Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
this was the passage the scholars found
when the wise men arrived
and asked Herod,
"Where is the child born king of the Jews?"

A study in contrasts:
King Herod
an agent of the Roman Empire
Death Squads
Political Strength

Baby Jesus
the Son of God
Prince of Peace

our news media is full of Herod:
of those who walk the halls of power,
of those who prey on our fears,
of those who confuse terror with power,
of extremist hide outs, strategic missile strikes, and threats of more,
all words used to hide the reality of violence, death, and revenge.

Prince of Peace,
Come and reign over us.
May Your peace be born 
in us, through us, between us, among us.
"Cure Thy children’s warring madness,
Bend our pride to Thy control.
Shame our wanton selfish gladness,
Rich in things and poor in soul.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal."

Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Do it quickly, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Family Ministry: One Disciples Another

Psalm 145:1-4
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
"Family ministry is
the long, slow, hard work
of people who disciple parents and grandparents
so that they can disciple children.

It has always been people who disciple people,
and the process has always been multi-generational.

Yes, there can be helpful tools in that process.
But unless we are directly focusing
on nurturing the faith in the daily life of people
who are in turn nurturing the faith of others,
all the products in the world
won’t produce Christians
with a vibrant faith in Jesus.

Let’s help the Spirit 
create vibrant faith."

The above quotation from Vibrant Faith.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Generations Together Worship You, O Lord!

Luke 1:35-45
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.  For nothing will be impossible with God.”  Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit  and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?  For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

may we be like Elizabeth & Mary
this Christmas.
These women from two different generations:
one "getting on in years";
one a young woman.
one married for decades;
one just engaged.
one with dreams unfulfilled;
one with visions of angels.

In a time of great change
in their pregnancies,
they run to each other -
one old and one young.
They rejoice together, O God.
They share their experiences of Your blessings.
Very different stories
and yet so very similar.

Elizabeth & Mary
resist the temptation
to turn only to their peers.
Instead they find support,
strength, and encouragement
in each other.
Two women from different generations
Worshiping you, O God, together.

You are a God of all generations,
and we generations need each other.

This Christmas 
Lord, may we be like Elizabeth and Mary
turning to each other to find 
support, strength, and encouragement!
The generations together worshiping you, O Lord.

The above prayer inspired by the thoughts of my friend Nate Phillips in his blog post:Talkin-bout-my-generation

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

SING to God

I love music.
I love making it.
I love hearing it.
I love dancing to it.
I worship you through it.
I experience you through music.

Any time of year
and especially,
at this Christmas time of year,
I am moved
to tears,
to joy,
to devotion,
to praise,
to sadness,
to hope,
to silence
through music.

As I write this prayer,
"Ava Maria" is singing forth from my computer.

This Christmas
I lift my voice
to sing praise to you!
to pray for my world before you!
to put my hope in you!

Lord Jesus,
hear my love for you in my heart
through the music on my lips.