Friday, December 25, 2020

What does Christmas mean to me?

What does Christmas mean to me?

Christmas is the church's celebration of
your birth,
your first coming,
your incarnation,
your self-revelation,
your fulfillment,
your embodiment of hope, peace, joy, and love,
your eternal light shining,
your life giving,
your glory from heaven to earth come down.

But what is Christmas to me?
Gifts given?
Gifts received?
Old familiar stories?
Old comforting hymns?

Maybe it's something different each year.
Surely, it means something different to each one of us.

I think for me
Christmas is the reminder 
to pause,
to wonder,
to hear clearly,

Love born in a baby
Love in the strong arms of Mary
Love in the courageous care of Joseph
Love in the songs of the Angels
Love in the searching of the Magi
Love in the gathering of worshipers
Love in the stories
Love in the gifts
Love in the silence

Merry Christmas, Lord.
Thank you for the love shared.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Acrostic Praise

Psalm 34 is an acrostic poem using the Hebrew Alphabet and an individual song of thanksgiving to God.

In teaching Bible study this week, I wondered aloud, "What acrostic poem of thanksgiving would you write?" So here is one try using my own name:

C - Come celebrate God with me!
H - Hear what God has done.
R - Rejoice in God's deliverance, for God has come to save!
I - I have seen the goodness of God; I have felt delight in the presence of the Divine.
S - Savor with me the goodness of God. Taste and see how good God is.

D - Did not our God promise to be with us always?
E - Everyday I lift up my voice in praise, in times of joy and in sadness, I raise my voice to you, God.
N - Never are you far from me; indeed, you are closer than my next breath or heart beat.
N - Now and always, I will praise you. I will speak of your good deeds in the congregation of the faithful.
Y - Yes, I will proclaim your love together with all generations! Alleluia! Amen.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

I am sorry.

Loving Father,
all the fancy words
in the world,
expressed in eloquent prose,
decorated with emotion,
spoken with conviction,
cannot compete with a heartfelt
'I am sorry.'
when all other words fail.

There are times
when we are all too aware
of our limitations,
conscious of sin
and the distance it creates between us.
Sometimes 'sorry'
is all the heart can bear to say aloud.

It is only you
who can read and understand
the language of our hearts.
Only you who can translate our 'sorry'
into the prayer we would have prayed
if we had the words within us.

Then you forgive,
and having forgiven,
surround us in an embrace of love,
drawing us close to your heart
as it was always meant to be.

Thank you, Loving Father,
that you listen to hearts
as well as voices.
Thank you.

The above prayer adapted and shared from:

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Prayer for those suffering with COVID-19

"You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon."
-- Psalm 91:5-6

Merciful God, 
hear our fervent prayer for all who suffer from the coronavirus.
May those who are infected receive the proper treatment
and the comfort of your healing presence.
May their caregivers, families and neighbors 
be shielded from the onslaught of the virus.
Give solace to those who grieve the loss of loved ones.
Protect and guide those who strive to find a cure,
that their work may conquer the disease and 
restore communities to wholeness and health.
Help us to rise above fear. 
We ask all this in the name of your Son, Jesus.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Why did I become a pastor in the first place?

John 15:16

"You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name."

it strikes me as funny
the moments when life becomes clear.
Today it happened after watching 
an episode of NCIS (Season 15 Episode 23).
At the end the agents are questioning:
"Why did I become an agent in the first place?"
The answer is revealed: 
"To make a difference."

I began reflecting on the same question:
"Why did I become a pastor in the first place?"
I thought my answer was going to be:
"To make a difference."
But then I paused, 
and I heard a different answer 
bubbling up from within:
"Because God called me to be a pastor."

You, Lord, chose me,
and appointed me to bear fruit.
Sometimes that fruit is about making a difference.
I have letters and cards from lives my work has touched.
But my worth, my value, my rooted-ness 
is NOT in how much difference I make.
My foundation, 
what keeps me going, 
what gives me strength for these hard days
is Your calling, Your choosing, Your appointing.

Why did I become a pastor in the first place, Lord?
Because you chose me
and that makes ALL the difference!

May I produce the fruit of faithfulness that lasts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Anniversary of Ordination

Lift high the cross
The love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world
Adore His sacred name.

Each newborn servant
Of the Crucified
Bears on the brow
The seal of Him who died.

Lift high the cross
The love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world
Adore His sacred name.
Click to listen to the full hymn:
whenever I sing this hymn
I get choked up.
It was the processional hymn 
for my ordination 
as a Minister of Word and Sacrament
in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
on this day, July 28, in 2002
by the Presbytery of New Harmony
at First Presbyterian Church, Sumter, SC.

My Installation Commission
at McBee Presbyterian Church

Surrounded by friends, family, mentors, and colleagues,
I took another step on my journey with you.
18 years later
each day is another step 
on the journey of faith.

Some days are hard uphill climbs.
Some days are filled with beauty to behold.
Some days are slogging through.
Some days are tear soaked.
Most days are prayer soaked.
All days are days to learn and lean into your Holy Spirit.

Each day I try 
to live out the words of the hymn 
I try to:
Lift high the cross
The love of Christ proclaim,
Till all the world
Adore His sacred name.

May you find me faithful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

God of the small and the great

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-45
Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

God of the small and the great, 
take our small faith, 
our simple acts, and 
our humble offerings 
and with your love cause us 
to move mountains, 
give your amazing grace, and 
share your treasurer both new and old 
with all of our neighbors 
as a sign of your kingdom 
come and coming. 

I wrote this prayer for use in worship July 26, 2020

Monday, July 6, 2020

Jesus, you love cities...

Jesus of Capernaum, of Nazareth, of Jerusalem, [of Columbia, of (insert your city)]...

You loved cities - you knew their tables, taverns and tales -
but you did not let your love of cities
tame your stories about the wrongs they do.

Change our cities, Jesus,
and change all who hold power in our cities,
especially those of us who hold power in one hand
and denial in the other.

May we repent,
and lift up our eyes
to that which will save us.

Because we believe - along with you -
that cities are places
where God lives,
and where God breathes,
or might.


The above prayer shared from:

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"We Will Meet" a new song in a time of separation

I heard this today and found renewed hope.
I share it with you with gladness.

Click here for the video:

"We Will Meet"

We will meet when the danger is over.
We will meet when the sad days are done.
We will meet sitting closely together
and be glad our tomrrow has come.

We will join to give thanks and sing gladly.
We will join to break bread and share wine,
and the peace that we pass to each other
will be more than a casual sign.

So let's make with each other a promise
that when all we've come through is behind,
we will share what we missed and find meaning
in the things that once troubled our mind.

Until then may we always discover 
faith and love to determine our way. 
That's our hope and God's will and our calling 
for our lives and for ev'ry new day.

Words: Original Norwegian text and English translation by Hans-Olav Moerk,
translation adapted by John L. Bell copyright © 2020 Hans-Olav Moerk and WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland 
Music: John L. Bell copyright © 2020 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland 

Music & Lyrics here:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

In This Together ... even while apart

One word keeps coming up lately.
I hear it when I make pastoral phone calls 
(because I can't go visit in person right now).
I hear it when I'm in Video conference meetings
(because we can't meet in person right now).
I have witnessed it and its devastating power.
The word -- Isolation.
One of Evil's weapons -- Isolation.
An effect of the coronavirus that will have long lasting impact -- Isolation.

sometimes we call it, "Independence,"
but that's a lie.
For we are most able to be fully human when we acknowledge
our dependence on you
and our interdependence on one another.

I've seen it in the spiral of depression.
Isolating from others.
Drawing back from those who really care.
Pulling away from support systems.
Alone. Lonely. Isolated.

In response to COVID-19, 
separation does help slow the spread of the virus.
But I think the term used: "social-distancing" has resulted in issolation,
when what is meant is "physical-distancing."
Keep the 6+ foot distance, and ALSO keep the caring relationships strong.

Lord Jesus,
that's why Emmanuel is so powerful.
Emmanuel means, "God is WITH us."
Your Incarnation is a felt physical reminder,
"God is WITH us."
The Psalmist knows the truth:
"Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil,
THOU ART WITH ME" (from Psalm 23)

During the pandemic,
we are NOT alone;
we are NOT isolated.
You are WITH us.

Indeed, even in the most painful time of your life,
the path that leads to the cross,
you traveled surrounded by others --
disciples, family, friends, betrayers, deniers, crucifiers.

while crying out, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
you were not isolated...
Your mother looked on in grief.
Your disciples watch in horror.
The thieves crucified with you were there
-- repentant and unrepentant they were there.

No, Lord, we are in this together.
We are walking this hard path together.
We are facing the uphill battle together.
We are separate together.
With prayers, cards, calls, 
driveway visits, backporch meals, online worship,
video conference meetings, 
we are in this together
And You are in our midst!
Embracing us, holding us, loving us, 
keeping us connected to your heart of love and to our love for one another.

"Be strong and bold; 
have no fear or dread of them, 
because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; 
he will not fail you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

"And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

Thanks be to God!

This prayer is an adaptation/update of a prayer I wrote March 6, 2018 entitled "In this Together" as part of the Journey to Jerusalem series. Thanks to my mom for reminding me and encouraging me to share it again!

Monday, June 1, 2020

A Pentecost Prayer

Come, O Spirit, 
blow into our locked away, 
shut away rooms.

Ignite the fire of 
our passion for you, 
our love for you, 
our longing for you. 

Rekindle in our bodies your desire 
to help, 
to heal, 
to serve, 
to share, 
to give.

Set ablaze our compassion for 
your world, 
your people, 
your broken and hurting ones.

Make us 
a steady flame, 
a fire of warmth, 
a beacon of hope, 
a guiding light to all who
are weak, hurting, lonely, despairing, and lost.

Burn away our impurities 
so that we may shine brightly for you. 

I wrote the above prayer for Pentecost Sunday 2020 during the Coronavirus Pandemic, the protests and riots following the murder of George Floyd.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Ventures of which we cannot see the ending

The Covid-19 crisis has called me back to an old prayer. When I first ran across it in 2003, I found it deeply meaningful and moving.

Lord God,
you have called your servants 
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, 
by paths as yet untrodden, 
through perils unknown. 
Give us faith to go out with courage, 
not knowing where we go, 
but only that your hand is leading us 
and your love supporting us; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This prayer was written by Eric Milner-White (1884-1963), an Anglican clergyman in his book, “Daily Prayer” (1941, 1959). It is now widely used by various churches and groups. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Let us Remember... the least of these... Lord, in your mercy...

Lord, in your mercy,
as we remind folks
(as well we should)
to stay at home,

let us remember those
who do not have the resources,
financial, storage, people
to stockpile 2/4/6/8 weeks
of groceries, meds, cleaning supplies,
as so many of us do;
Lord, in your mercy . . .

let us remember those
who do not have the devices,
the smart TVs, the computers,
the wherewithal, or even access
to binge watch movies and TV shows,
download games, books, and videos,
as so many of us do;
Lord, in your mercy . . .

let us remember those
who have lived paycheck to paycheck
all their lives, all their working days,
not because they are lazy or don't care,
but haven't had the access to training,
to education, to mentors, to families
who cared about them, encouraged them,
as so many of us did;
Lord, in your mercy . . .

let us remember those
who have no pension plans,
no social security, no health care,
no stock options, no 6+ months of savings,
no relatives to call on or move in with,
no support group, no safety net,
as so many of us do;
Lord, in your mercy . . .

let us remember those,
who in these times of confusion,
of fear, of lives and futures unraveling,
are not privileged enough
to have access to every media platform,
to be able to find a virtual community,
to have those who don't even know
them personally, but support them,
as we are;
Lord, in your mercy . . .

Lord, in your mercy,
hear our prayers.

(c) 2020 Thom M. Shuman

The above prayer was written by Rev. Thom M. Shuman. I am often inspired by his writing.
Shared from:

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Prayer for Healthcare Workers

Prayer for Healthcare Workerswritten by Rev. Jill Duffield

you came to the world healing,
touching those considered 
dangerous, unsafe and unclean. 
You entered into suffering, 
never turning away 
from those in need of mercy.

We think of you, 
your compassion and kindness, 
your stalwart love and 
your selfless courage, 
because we see these traits 
in those on the front lines, 
combating this pandemic.

We see you in the bruised faces 
of nurses after hours and hours 
wearing facemasks and tending to the sick.

We see you in the pain of parents 
unable to hug their own children 
for fear of infecting them 
after working shift after shift 
with contagious patients.

We see you, tired, putting yourself at risk 
for the sake of strangers.

We see you in gloves and gowns, 
not knowing when this scourge will end, 
but bringing healing, comfort and hope 
despite your own fears and fatigue.

Lord God, 
bringer of wholeness, giver of peace, 
strengthen your servants 
who are putting themselves on the line, 
pouring themselves out, 
looking to the interests of others 
in order to heal the sick and tend to the suffering. 

Help them to know they are seen and valued, 
not only by you, but by all of us 
who are grateful for their sacrifices 
and awed by their tenacity, commitment, skill and care.

Grant them rest, 
give them fortitude, 
guide our collective will, 
shape all our actions, 
unite us in upholding one another 
in this extraordinary time 
and always. 

The above prayer was written by Rev. Jill Duffield. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Why Me?

Judges 6:13 
“If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?”

Dear Lord, 
In the midst of the coronovirus pandemic one might ask…
why is this happening? 

But the answer is as elusive as the problem of suffering…
we don’t know. 

But rather than focusing on fear and “why me”, 
maybe we should see this pandemic as a wake-up call…
not just for us, 
but for our country and 
indeed the entire world. 

Is this a time to ask 
the really important questions like: 
What is my purpose in life? 
What is the purpose of being a parent? 
What part does my faith play in my attitude towards my daily actions?

Can this pause of social distancing 
be an opportunity to write a personal letter of appreciation 
to a parent, a grandparent, a child or a sick friend? 

Could this be a time to deal with anger and 
do away with the “pernicious contempt for others” 
that divides people, political parties and countries?

Can this be a time of prayer, 
a time of forgiveness and 
a time of healing the very fabric of our society?

This is our prayer to You O Lord...
but what is OUR response? 


The above prayer was written by my father-in-law, Rev. Dr. Francis Burriss.
Dr. Burriss serves as the Chaplain of the Senate of South Carolina.
This prayer is shared with his permission and was prayed as the opening of regular session of the Senate on March 17, 2020.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Just Breathe ... Breath Prayers during Anxious Times

Breath Prayers for Anxious Times
How to do Breath Prayers:

Inhale. Fill your whole self with breath.
Feel air in your lungs. And then in your mind say the first line of the prayer.
... then Exhale slowly and fully as say the 2nd line.

(From Matthew 11:28-30)
Inhale: Humble and gentle One,
Exhale: you are rest for my soul.

(From John 15)
Inhale: True Vine and Gardener,
Exhale: I abide in You.

(From Romans 8:38-39)
Inhale: Nothing can separate me,
Exhale: from the love of God.

(From Psalm 46:10)
Inhale: Be still
Exhale: and know you are God.

(From Matt. 6:10)
Inhale: On earth
Exhale: as it is in heaven.

(From 2 Cor. 12:9)
Inhale: Your grace
Exhale: is enough for me.

(From 1 John)
Inhale: There is no fear
Exhale: in your Love.

(From Psalm 23)
Inhale: I will not be afraid
Exhale: for You are with me.

(From Psalm 46:1)
Inhale: You are our refuge
Exhale: and our strength.

(From Psalm 74:16)
Inhale: Both day and night
Exhale: belong to You.

(From Psalm 91:1)
Inhale: I find rest
Exhale: in Your shelter.

(From Psalm 103: 4-5)
Inhale: You surround me with love
Exhale: and tender mercies.
Inhale: You fill my life
Exhale: with good things.

(From Philippians 4:7)
Inhale: Peace of Christ,
Exhale: guard my heart and mind.

The above prayers shared from:

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Prayer During A Pandemic

Prayer During A Pandemic
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must choose between preserving
their health or making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money
In the tumult of economic markets
Remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country,
Let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically
Wrap our arms around each other,
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace
Of God to our neighbors.


the above prayer written by Cameron Bellm.

View this post on Instagram

Here in Seattle, there’s talk of little else besides the coronavirus. As the situation continues to unfold in our country, I’ve been trying to take a step back and consider all the ways it is affecting people, beyond the obvious disruptions of work and travel. We have a very human instinct to draw into ourselves when threatened, to claw madly for the last bottle of hand sanitizer. In my own effort to overcome that instinct, I wrote this prayer for us (in my wonky sharpie, on the kitchen floor). I was thinking that maybe one nice way to open our hearts to each other would be to gather all the money we are saving by staying home (work transportation, meals out, trips canceled) and donate it to organizations that are helping provide care to the most vulnerable. Let us love one another. ❤️ #coronavirus

A post shared by Cameron Bellm (@krugthethinker) on

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Prayer When I Can't Sleep

Here we are again... 3am.
The house is quiet.
My family is asleep.
I'm awake......

I'm awake with you.
I'm glad you are here.
I'm glad you hear
me in the night.

Thoughts run through my mind...
To do lists,

I try not to look at my phone,
but sometimes a quiet song helps. (
Sometimes a podcast.
Sometimes a prayer app. (

Sometimes a verse helps: (Psalm 46:10)
Be still and know that I am God...
Be still and know that I am...
Be still and know...
Be still...

Thanks for being here.
Thanks for listening.
I ask for your rest.

I especially find this prayer for Insomnia helpful:

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Rest as Resistance

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Thank you for the invitation to rest.
Thank you for the promise of rest.
Thank you for creating space for rest, the 7th day, Sabbath.

Everyday contains a little Sabbath, 
a rest, a resistance to the enslavement of pharaoh,
the enslavement to produce brick upon brick
for my worth to be determined by how much I produce.

Rest, a nap, a night's sleep, a daily moment of Sabbath,
is a reminder that my worth is defined by you, O God,
who made me a masterpiece (from the Greek poema, in Ephesians 2:10).

So Lord, for the next few minutes,
I accept your invitation to
"Come away... and rest a while.” (see Mark 6:31)
I welcome your rest for my mind, body, and soul.

The above prayer was inspired by:

The Nap Ministry Manifesto (see:

The doors of the Nap Temple are open.
Won’t you come?

This is an invitation for weary souls to rest.
This is a resistance.
This is a protest.
This is counter narrative to the lie that we all aren’t doing enough.
We are enough.

The doors of the Nap Temple are open.
Won’t you come?

This is counter narrative to the lie that our worth is tied to the grind of capitalism.
You are enough simply by being alive.
Thank you for living.
Thank you for resisting.
Thank you for creating.
Thank you for loving

The doors of the Nap Temple are open.
Won’t you come?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Dark Nights of the Soul

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. 
But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

over and over in the scriptures
I hear your servants pray, 
"How long, O Lord?!"

In the dark nights of my soul,
I join my voice in this plea,
"How long, O Lord!?"

The feelings of inadequacy.
The desire to get it right, 
and the falling short.
The longing to make a difference, 
but the inability to see if any difference has been made.
Teaching and preaching with passion,
but does it change anybody's thinking, or way of living.
The gifts of a emphatic compassionate heart 
willing and able to hear the burdens of others, 
to pray with the burdened other, 
and yet too often feeling the burden as my own.

All this continues to be a place 
of much need and much prayer
not just for me, but also for many of your servants.

I read an article today (linked below) that reminded me:
I'm not the only one who feels this way.
It also reminded me of your word of encouragement to Elijah.
The prophet is scared and alone on the mountain running from Jezebel:
A voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus... I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” 
-- I Kings 19:13-18
In other words, Lord,
you encouraged Elijah saying
you still had work for him to do,
and that he is not the only one left.
Indeed, there are 7,000 whom you have kept for yourself,
so keep going.

because you are with me,
I'll keep going, keep listening, keep serving,
keep teaching, keep preaching...
Who knows how many you have kept for yourself?!
Thanks be to God!

The above prayer inspired by a post I resonated with entitled: "WHY CHRISTIAN LEADERS STRUGGLE WITH “DARK NIGHTS OF THE SOUL" By Chuck Lawless