Tuesday, May 31, 2016

God provides enough!

1 Kings 17:8-16
Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink." As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." But she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." Elijah said to her, "Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth. "She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

you provide

We only see a handful,
scarcely any at all,
and we hoard it for ourselves
convinced there is not enough,
not enough to share,
barely enough to eat and die.

I hear it all too often.
We are such a small church.
We have no children.
We can't share or reach out.
We barely have enough to pay the utilities,
to take care of our own needs.
Then we'll die.

And yet, what congregational leaders forget
is that you are a God who provides.
When the widow did as Elijah asked,
sharing her food with him,
God provided enough!
And she was beyond the boundaries of Israel.

If only congregations would take the same risk,
focused not on their own needs or fears
but rather sharing the Good News of God's love,
God's compassion, God's salvation,
with those who need it
beyond the boundaries of their walls,
Lord, you will provide enough!

Help us live into your enough
and share it with those who need it!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Remember and pray

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who served and died for these United States of America.

This year I am mindful of man I have never met and yet whose life and legacy continues to shape my own. My grandfather, Charles Franklin Denny, jr, died on Okinawa Japan in World War II. I carry on his legacy, I share his monogram, CFD, and so does my son, Charles.

On this Memorial Day, I grieve his death and honor his sacrifice, indeed the sacrifice of his whole family.

Yes, this Memorial Day you will find me playing on the beach with my son, but I will remember the sacrifices made by so many, including my grandfather and my family.

And I will recommit myself to working for peace so that one day there will be no more war and the death that always comes with war.

The below prayer is helpful to me:

In the quiet sanctuaries of our own hearts,
let each of us name and call on the One whose power over us
is great and gentle, firm and forgiving, holy and healing ...

You who created us,
who sustain us,
who call us to live in peace,
hear our prayer this day.

Hear our prayer for all who have died,
whose hearts and hopes are known to you alone ...

Hear our prayer for those who put the welfare of others
ahead of their own
and give us hearts as generous as theirs ...

Hear our prayer for those who gave their lives
in the service of others,
and accept the gift of their sacrifice ...

Help us to shape and make a world
where we will lay down the arms of war
and turn our swords into ploughshares
for a harvest of justice and peace ...

Comfort those who grieve the loss of their loved ones
and let your healing be the hope in our hearts...

Hear our prayer this day
and in your mercy answer us
in the name of all that is holy.


This prayer shared from:. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/memorial-day-prayer_b_868308.html

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Centurion's Faith

LUKE 7:1-10
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.
I know this story is about
Your authority and power to heal!
"Just say the word and let my servant be healed!"
Extraordinary. Amazing.

And yet,
as I read this story
I'm more amazed by the relationships:
the centurion -- a Roman soldier
who cares about his slave.
Yes, maybe his care is self-serving
because she slaves for him.
And yet, he sends for Jesus' healing.

Then there are the Jewish elders.
Perhaps they went out of fear or complusion
because he was an officer in occupying army
of the Roman Empire,
and yet the Jewish leaders speak highly of him,
saying, he loves their people,
and he even built their place of worship!

Then there is how the centurion
relates to Jesus.
Humbly he seeks not to trouble Jesus,
claiming to be unworthy of Jesus coming to his house.
Instead the centurion understands Jesus.
He understands the nature of power
that Jesus can command and healing will be done.
The centurion also understands the nature of compassion
that Jesus cares and will act to heal.

Jesus praises the centurion for his faith!

Is my faith like the centurion's?
Does my faith lead to acts of compassion?
Humility in positions of power and authority?
Generosity to those over whom I hold office?
Caring in relationships with those who serve me?

teach me such faith today.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sing a Song of Praise

PSALM 96:1-5
O sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
Today, O Lord,
I join with all Creation
singing praise to you!

I love to sing!
I remember hearing my mother 
hum happily as she went about her work at home.
There's one man in my church
who whistles as he works
a joyful sound.

The birds wake me
in the morning 
with their songs of gratitude and praise.

What song shall I sing?
With what words shall I say, "Thank you!"?
What are some ways
that my very LIFE 
can be a song of praise to you?

Today may my life
sing forth with
a more profound Alleluia!

For students testing

In my community this week
students are taking
EOG (end of grade) testing.
So much emphasis is put on these tests and their results.
It is a time of high anxiety
for students, parents, teachers, and administrators.

So Lord,
help all students do their best.
Calm their hearts and
give them clear minds.
Help family, teachers, staff and community
unite together to provide a loving environment
for learning and excellence to flourish.

And in the midst of it all,
remind us that the value of education
and the worth of students and teachers
depend not upon test scores
but upon the image of God
each one uniquely bears.

May your peace which surpasses all understanding
guard all our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Spirit Gifts: What's My Gift?

I Corinthians 12:8-11
To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
What an amazing list of gifts
from You to us with love!
Thank you, God.

It seems to me,
the Apostle Paul does not intend
for this list to be the only gifts,
but rather his is a starting place...
The Spirit gives "just as the Spirit chooses."

What else
might be included
in the list of Spirit Gifts?
Wealth creation,
Social well-being,
Caring for the poor,
Compassion for the hungry,
Acts of justice,
Peace making,
Environmental renewal,
... and the list of gifts from the Spirit
for the good of the world
goes on...

But ultimately, Lord, the question becomes:
What is MY gift?
What gift have you given me?
What is it that you have invested in my life
that I might use to do your will?

I heard recently one way
to begin to answer those questions
by exploring these questions:
"What are the unique needs where God has placed you?
What are the unique resources and capabilities that God brings together in you?
What particular focus most energizes and animates you?"
from Church Unique by Will Mancini
Amazing, Lord,
so many gifts
for so much good
from the One same Spirit.
Unite us in that One Spirit
to be about your work in the world.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Spirit Gifts: For the Common Good

I Corinthians 12:4-7
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
Giving Spirit,
you are generous
in giving a wide variety
of gifts to us.

All gifts from you.
Great diversity of ability
all from the One Source.

The question is always:
"In what ways, will I use the gifts you give me?"
Is this for MY glory?
or Yours!
Is this so I can make a name for myself?
or point others to the Generous God!
Is all this for MY gain?
or for the common good!

I'll never forget the college president
who challenged us:
"You are among the best and brightest;
in you may lie the cure for cancer,
the solution to global warming,
the next breakthrough to peace.
Don't waste your gift!"

In what ways am I using Your gifts
for the common good?
Or asked another way:
What are some ways, today,
that I am investing
my God given abilities
to bring about "Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"

Open my eyes
to see where and in what ways
I can use
what You, Lord,
have given me
to make a positive difference
in the world
for Christ's sake!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spirit Gifts: The Gift of Faith

I Corinthians 12:1-3
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus, You are LORD!"
That statement alone
is a gift of your Holy Spirit.

Some say such a statement
is a choice I make.
But without your Spirit
working in my life
through those around me
leading me,
teaching me,
guiding me,
there would be no way
on my own to know or claim
"Jesus Christ my Lord!"

Yes, there is choice in my salvation,
it is YOUR choice.
You choose to love me.
You choose to speak to me.
You choose to use others around me.
You choose to die for me.
You choose to rise from the grave for me.
You choose to send your Spirit into my life
so that I can know and embrace your love.

That is a gift!
The Gift of Faith.
Thank you for loving me that much.
Help me choose
to share that kind of love
with others, especially young others.

you are Lord!
Thanks be to God!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ruah: Breath of God

Ruah, written in Hebrew above, is the Hebrew word translated with three different words: "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".  I use it here, a name for God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ruah.

Sung here by a choir in Cape Town, South Africa:

"Breath on Me, Breath of God"

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Words: Ed­win Hatch, 1878; first ap­peared in a pri­vate print­ing of Be­tween Doubt and Pray­er.
Music: Trent­ham, Ro­bert Jack­son, in Fifty Sac­red Leaf­lets, 1888

Sunday, May 15 is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the church. This week's prayers will reflect on the Holy Spirit, God's Ruah.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ruah: Sigh and Groan

Ruah, written in Hebrew above, is the Hebrew word translated with three different words: "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".  I use it here, a name for God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ruah.

Romans 8:26-27
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

You are
the Sigh and Groan,
O Ruah,
Pray for us.
Intercede for us.
Sign and Groan for us.

When words fail you are there,
O Sigh and Groan,
revealing our hearts
to the very heart of God.

In the silence,
at our wits end,
beside the hospital bed,
in the dark spiral of depression,
in the loneliness,
Sigh and Groan,
You are there,
and you know us,
our pain,
our fears,
our longings,
our numbness,
our hurt.

O Sigh and Groan,
speak for us
speak to us
God's love for us
God's care over us
too deep for words
just pure love
wave after wave
of love washing over us.

O Sigh and Groan,
Ruah of God.

Sunday, May 15 is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the church. This week's prayers will reflect on the Holy Spirit, God's Ruah.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ruah: Wild Wind

Ruah, written in Hebrew above, is the Hebrew word translated with three different words: "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".  I use it here, a name for God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ruah.

John 3:5-8
Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Wild Wind,
you, who blow
where ever you choose,
we cannot see your coming,
nor can we know where you go.

We can only see
your affects.
The trees bend and sway.
The rains follow your lead.
The sailboat is driven by your power.
The turbine and windmill turn.
The oppressed are set free!
The offender is forgiven!
The grudge long held is loosed.
The fears that hold us back are conquered.
The faith we hold intensely personal
becomes boldly public.
The cross saves the day.
The empty tomb makes all the difference.
Mere fisherman speak so all the world understands.

But sometimes,
O Wild Wind,
you blow too hard.
You threaten to overturn
our self-made yacht,
our comfortable pew.

You push and blow
and send us on a new course,
a course that pushes us
into unknown waters,
with unknown troubles,
and yet unknown joys,
but we fear the worst
and make up stories
about what monsters may lay beyond
and how the old path was better,
or at least more comfortable.

Nineveh is the last place we want to go;
and yet the exact place
your grace,
your wildly generous,
wildly extravagant,
uncontrollably forgiving
wind, Ruah, blows us.

Blow, O Wild Wind, blow!

Sunday, May 15 is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the church. This week's prayers will reflect on the Holy Spirit, God's Ruah.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Ruah: Evening Breeze

Ruah, written in Hebrew above, is the Hebrew word translated with three different words: "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".  I use it here, a name for God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ruah.

Genesis 3:8-10
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD  God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
Gentle Calming Evening Breeze,
rustling among the leaves
as I rest between the trees
in the garden.

You come at the end of the day
blowing the heat away
as the clouds above play
in the sky.

But me, I am naked before God
trying to hide my shame
afraid of getting the rod
playing my foolish game
of hiding my sin.

Yet, you, Ruah, Evening Breeze
find me among the trees
and hear my prayer, "Forgive me please."

You calm my heart;
my sins forgiven and set apart,
and you invite me to join your art --
blowing free, gracefully,
giving others what they need,
mercy and compassion, your seed
to grow a garden of new life.

Gentle Calming Evening Breeze,
rustling among the leaves
as I rest between the trees
in the garden of Eden.

Sunday, May 15 is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the church. This week's prayers will reflect on the Holy Spirit, God's Ruah.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Ruah: Creative Wind

Ruah, written in Hebrew above, is the Hebrew word translated with three different words: "wind" or "breath" or "spirit".  I use it here, a name for God the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ruah.

Genesis 1:1-2
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Creative Wind,
in the beginning
you blew over the waters
and brought forth light and life.

In my beginning,
you breathed life into my flesh.
every day you are
"the breath beneath our breathing."

Blow again,
Creative Wind!
Enable us to imagine
a world of forgiveness and grace,
a world of peace and unity,
a world of well-being for all,
a world of enough for all,
a world of value for life, and creatures, and creation,
a world Jesus called, "the Kingdom of God".

Having imagined
with you, through you, by you,
Creative Wind,
blow again
and begin to create it
with us,
through us,
among us,
in spite of us
starting in both small and large ways:
deep hurts being forgiven,
wounds healing,
seeking to understand the other,
treating each other and the created order all as Children of God,
living out our prayers,
"Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven."

Creative Wind,
blow again
over the chaotic waters of our creation
and create again
the world of God's BIG dreams
not our small ones.

Sunday, May 15 is Pentecost Sunday, the day the church celebrates the gift of the Spirit to the church. This week's prayers will reflect on the Holy Spirit, God's Ruah.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Our Mother, who art in heaven

Lord God,
I know the language of the scriptures.
I know that Jesus called you, "Abba! Father!"
It was intimate, loving
like me
running to you
with arms wide open
for embrace
crying, "Daddy!!"

And yet,
I've also read where You, God, said,
"Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion
for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you." Isaiah 49:15
"As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you." Isaiah 66:13
the Lord Jesus says,
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" Luke 13:34

Why not call you,
God our Mother?
It was You who gave birth to us!
It is You who feed us on your own Body!
It is You who lead us, and correct us,
hold us, and send us forth.

In you,
we find
the model for mothering.

Heavenly Mother,
this Sunday
as we honor
our mothers on earth,
may we also give
honor to You
who love us
more than any earthly mother.
You are
Our Mother,
who art in heaven.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Celebrating the Continuum of Mothering

Mother's Day always makes me nervous.
It is the 3rd most attended Sunday at church, behind Christmas and Easter.
People come to worship to honor and celebrate their mothers, often with their mothers, and they expect the preacher to say something profound, helpful, inspiring.

And yet, I am mindful that not everyone had a mother who was a loving as mine!  Thanks Mom! There are some whose mothers were... well... not so loving, not so present, not so gracious, not so mothering.

How in the church do we acknowledge and seek to redeem that aspect of Mother's Day?

Then I read an article that reminded me of broken dreams of women who so wanted to be a mother but couldn't for a variety of reasons, or mothers whose children were torn from them by illness, violence, war, and death, or mothers whose children have turned their backs on them.

Oh, the pain we bear, 
but dare not bare.

So on this Mother's Day how do we celebrate and honor the full continuum that is mothering?

I have found this open letter to a pastor helpful: 

Especially this part of that post, as a sort of prayer:
To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
To those who placed children up for adoption — we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst.
We remember you.

These thoughts shared from