Dance at Sunset

After so many days of heat, the rain was all blessing. I watched the steam rising up from the pavement, it was as if the whole of creation was sighing with relief. The grass and trees must have been shouting “thank you” as water dripped from their dry, exhausted foliage.

Tonight the sunset seemed to announce the joy we feel. I will not attempt to add to its beauty with words. I offer glimpses and a prayer. Whether it is for tonight or the morning coming, may our confidence in our Creator be strengthened. May our joy be ever present.

Lord, we see your creativity in the ordinary rhythms of nature and we are overwhelmed with your beauty. The skies dance at your hand! The sunset follows its path, a practice set in place by You that unfolds every day. Nothing is out of place. And yet, every setting of the sun is for that moment in history; it will never occur again in exactly this way. You, LORD, amaze us!
Help us to trust you with our days. Allow us the gift of witnessing your presence in our lives and in our world. Please continue the redeeming work of equipping and maturing us for your kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We are in awe of you, Lord, and we are grateful.
Please grant peace to those who sleep; and inspiration to those waking. We welcome you into the spaces of this night that leave us wanting. We welcome your joy as the morning breaks fully open. You, Lord, are the only One who holds this night. You are the only One who holds the dawning of a new day. Help us to honor you by living it fully, with gratitude and joy. We trust you, Father, and we love you. Thank you for the gift of this dance. Amen.

HUMILITY: Proverbs 30:1-6

“I am weary, God,
    but I can prevail. 
Surely I am only a brute, not a man;
    I do not have human understanding.”

I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I attained to the knowledge of the Holy One.

Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
    Whose hands have gathered up the wind?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a cloak?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is the name of his son?
    Surely you know!

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
    or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.”

– Proverbs 30:1-6

It turns out that even though we humans can engage in the intimacy of relationship with our Creator, there remains so much we do not know.

I find myself truly dependent on the wisdom of the Lord to guide me in all things. Without divine help, my own steps lead me where grace is illusive, and burdens pile up without reason.  There is a lot of freedom in knowing how much God can do, when we can do nothing! 

Listening to these Proverbs as I walk this morning, I hear Jesus speaking too:  Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. – Jesus in the Gospel of John 15:4

Morning walk; late June 2022

Lord, where your people are weary, please provide hope and strength today. Where sorrow has interrupted the best of plans, give your peace that refuses to abandon.  Be our refuge and shield; our joy and strength. Our hope is in you, and it is good; we trust you completely! Amen. 

You’re Going to Be Okay

Proverbs 17:1

Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife.
– Proverbs 17:1

Morning fog rising, summer 2022

May the peace of Christ be in your home;
in your waking and work,
your coming and going.
May joy and laughter take a seat

at your table;
and your rest bring refreshment

to your soul. Amen.

Patience

“A patient man has great understanding, but a quick tempered man displays folly.” – Proverbs 14:29

Perhaps one of the blessings that comes with time is patience. Whether in seasons of success or suffering, this virtue seems to never fail. It is like a muscle that develops over years of training. You can’t get there quickly; you just have to take one step at a time.

It is also a total act of trust for me. To be patient now means that I trust God. In training or healing; in work that takes years to reach completion; even muddling my way through the unknown with confidence that God is working all things out…patience is gained through living it.

In a season of difficulty many years ago I came upon this quote by Mother Teresa. It was written on a card where I could keep it visible in my daily routine. Over time the words lodged deep within me. And lodging there, this became a prayer of trust and patience for me. I’m still receiving blessings from that wisdom…poured into me by someone who knew well the path.

Let nothing trouble you,
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.
– Mother Teresa

God of patience and mercy, thank you for never giving up on us. Help us to trust you in moments we want to act too quickly or walk away too soon. We need never to give up on what you are doing in our lives and in the world. Thank you for your faithfulness and love. We trust you completely. Amen.

Monday Morning in June

Summer has its own rhythm. The heat of the sun reminds me how important perspective is when seasons change. We all do things in the summer that we don’t do other times of year. Water and lightening bugs; cookouts and watermelon. Vacations for some; camps and retreats for others.

I have an annual practice of reading through the book of Proverbs in the summer. These verses of wisdom are reminders. They quicken my mind and spirit. Ancient wisdom rises to the surface and foolishness is placed in the light where it can be seen for what it is.

This book of wisdom encourages, corrects, clarifies and makes me think. It’s funny how much I need the reminders! Thus, every summer I return to these words.

I read whatever chapter matches the date. Today, June 13th, is Proverbs 13. Just looking for one sentence that I can carry through the day. I don’t worry so much about missing a day, I just do this through June-July until I’ve read all 30 chapters of the book. It’s my summer renewing of the mind.

Occasionally a friend will join me in the reading and it makes for good conversation as the summer days pass. It is a great practice for parents and children – especially adult children. It’s a great practice for friends, couples, groups…whomever is up for the blessing of engaging in the adventure.

Pride only breeds quarrels,
But wisdom is found in those who take advice.” – Proverbs 13:10

This weekend I attended the 92nd birthday party of a distant cousin and a Celebration of Life for a 100 year old friend. In both places I was surrounded by my elders. Men and women who have shared life wisdom, both by example and conversations. What a treasured gift!

As you begin your week, perhaps a dip into the pool of Proverbs wisdom will refresh your mind and spirit. You won’t be alone; I’ll be reading with you.

God of wisdom and mercy, thank you for providing a way for us to encounter your ancient teaching. Thank you for people who have eyes to see and ears to hear. Give us a humble character, Lord, to listen; and courage to follow when this gift comes from you. Forgive us for our pride in thinking we know so much. Open us to what you offer; we need you. We welcome your Spirit to teach us.

Prayer for Tonight

I call on the Lord in my distress,
    and he answers me.
Save me, Lord,
    from lying lips
    and from deceitful tongues.

What will he do to you,
    and what more besides,
    you deceitful tongue?
He will punish you with a warrior’s sharp arrows,
    with burning coals of the broom bush.

Woe to me that I dwell in Meshek,
    that I live among the tents of Kedar!
Too long have I lived
    among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
    but when I speak, they are for war. – Psalm 120 (NIV)

Sometimes the Psalms give us words to offer when we have none. They give us voice in prayer, lament and hope. The prayers of the people all over the world are what unite us tonight. We are calling on our Creator God for divine help; for peace that only God can bring.

Holy God, for all who are in need of your peace tonight, please rush in closely and quickly to each one. We ask humbly and boldly for the resurrected Christ to stand in the midst of people seeking shelter; in the middle of streets where war is raging. We pray the resurrected Christ is standing near each leader and decision maker giving them wisdom and discernment; correcting when it is needed and giving courage that is beyond anything we can create. We pray that our own hearts and spirits remain steadfast, humble and faithful in all the ways you call us to be present in this time. And we ask, Holy God, that you help us to always be instruments of your peace in every place we are right now. We are not people who wage war. Amen.

Statue of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. @ Abbey of Gethsemane in KY.

PRAYER OF ST FRANCIS – Sarah McLachlan

Moments of Faithful Risk

“While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. “ – Matthew 26:6-7

Bethany is the town where Lazarus and his sisters lived, but in this situation, the meal is at Simon’s house. It is the most unexpected house to host a meal. Simon was known as a “leper” until he was healed by Christ. Now he is hosting a meal for Jesus.

The woman that comes with the expensive perfume is named as “Mary” when John writes his account of this story (John 12:3). She must have been saving this perfume for just the right situation and time. It is valuable. Somehow she knew (by God’s grace and a nudge of the Spirit?) that this is the time, this is the moment, for her to give it. She chooses to give it all to Jesus. She doesn’t know why, she just knows she is supposed to offer it.

The disciples – the followers of Jesus – are appalled. It is too extravagant; a waste. Jesus is pleased; she obeyed the nudge of the Spirit and did something that involved her in his story of redemption. God’s plans are fulfilled. This woman’s offer of love and devotion prepares Jesus to offer his greatest gift of love: to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)

We know Christ’s sacrifice is near; and we know resurrection is coming. His preparation and her involvement in his journey of obedience…these are moments of faithful risk. In the kingdom of God we take risks to love across societal norms, boundaries that limit access to Christ, and even fears whether they are real or imagined.

We return to the neighborhood today and knock on doors to invite the children to come out for “Bible Club”. Some will say yes. Some will wait for another day. We will teach the Bible stories, play games and sing. Love, friendship and joy will be shared, if even for a few short hours of the day.

I do wonder… Is it possible that we, who are so deeply distracted with our busy lives, are bringing “perfume” to the neighborhood? Or is it much more likely that Jesus finds us in Simon, the Leper, and asks us to come into the neighborhood and be healed so we can serve others with him?

Jesus is grateful for the woman’s lavish love. He says this moment is so important that every time this story is told, her act of faith and love will be shared. He wanted us to know this. She took the risk of walking into a setting where women were not typically welcomed. She gave her greatest gift and it prepared him for his. How are you giving your best for Christ?

Prayer
God help us to walk humbly as we go through your neighborhoods today. Heal in us whatever keeps us from loving and serving you freely. We have no good apart from you so please come near. We love you. We trust you completely. Thank you for trusting and loving us enough to bring us here with you.

Bible Club lot #streetreach
Bible Club lot #streetreach

Serving with our youth group in Memphis. The joy of witnessing what God is doing in our teenagers is a gift. Being with children in the neighborhood is just finding where Jesus is already and joining the miracle. Grateful.

Downtime

A Prayer After Labor Day

After Labor Day we rush
into the months
forgetting quickly the blessing
of days and moments.
Help us, Lord, just today
to take the moments into account;
hold each as precious gifts;
stop to tend to the neighbor
whose name we still don’t know.
Protect us from filling our
months, seasons and remaining year
with frivolous busyness
while you are inviting us into
something bigger than we can see.
Help us, Creator, just today
to appreciate conversations that
shape us for peace;
to love without question;
pray without ceasing;
plan without striving.
Let this “after Labor Day” moment
be like no other
leading us into Grace for these days.
Amen and Amen.

Fancher Falls