House Guest

a prayer inspired by a prayer of the Columban Fathers

 

Our Father who is above us:

We are magnetized to mercy and love; attracted toward a friendship with the divine.

Distractions and abstractions often get in the way of knowing you more fully.

But you are faithful to sit alone when we have stood you up.

You are loyal to your love for us even while we doubt your motives and question whether or not you’ll be there for us.

 

You reside in the house of my absence; your summer home is the villa of my ignorance.

Why do you keep my place so tidy when I won’t even offer you a drink?

 

Momentary events bring us doubt, but time reveals the quiet work you are ever up to.

You share your life for all and invite us to share our lives with you;

to tell you bluntly of pain and loss, to seek enlightenment when confusion strikes, to sing with you over every little thing that brings us joy.

family gather

Your welcome is like an open door where the family gathers for a holiday

and the long, suffering patience you possess gives room for the skeptic, confidence to the believer

and a passion to spread the good news in fewer words and with greater compassion.

In this way you save us: holding back the closing doors of a narrow mind and broadening the channels of our hearts.

 

Amen.

 

Nine-Eleven

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Easy Sermon

by Mark Jarman

It must be easy to preach a sermon nowadays — A friend

 

Sermons are easy, Turgid or breezy,

When everything goes wrong

Every scripture Leads on to rapture,

When doom has struck its gong.

 

When towers are falling

And muezzins are calling,

It’s simple to kneel and pray.

A message will come

To the deaf and the dumb

In an easygoing way

 

When nothing is certain,

Up goes the curtain

Where the inner sanctum lurks

And everyone sees

The forest and trees,

The treason and the clerks.

 

And so every creature

Turns to the preacher

For the meaning of it all.

And a couple of cents

Can be sheer eloquence

When the highest powers fall.

 
twintowerlights

God of Hope and Peace:

Be near us.

Guard our hearts. Guard our minds. Guide our deeds.

Amen.

 

The Rant

a morning prayer

 

Come near, Spirit of God, and listen. Listen closely.

Listen to my whispered words, my angry rants, my quiet conversations.

Consider all the ways my mind searches for reason.

Give thought to every way my heart reaches out for purpose and meaning.

Let every thought and uttered syllable come to you, as a cry for hope, peace, mercy and help.

Let every impulsive word be my prayer. Let my careful words be a psalm.

This is how I make my prayer, in busy mornings on hectic days.

Just like this: my voice, with every inflection, however it is heard, will come to you.

In the morning, you hear me.

Stay tuned. There will be a lot more to come.

Thanks for listening.

It’s good to know someone is.

Amen.
rant

Give ear to my words, O Lord; give thought to my heart-searchings. Let the voice of my cry come to you, my King and my God; for to you will I make my prayer. My voice will come to you in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I send my prayer to you, and keep watch.” Psalm 5:3

A prayer written to serve my agnostic friends

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A prayer inspired by the 63rd Psalm

 

To the God whom we suspect is present though unseen

because we have come to our limit, like one walking through an empty home

And yet, something acts outside and within.

Like the sound of children playing in the street and the phone that rings,

something beyond ourselves both causes and responds.

And though we believe we are masters of our own space

We find this is too small a power to be all there is to know.

Having put all our hope in our own self, we are robbed of better strength

And a greater love.

There is something which draws us from the lonely house to know who it is who lives beyond our walls.

So we confess, it is Your goodness that makes us alive to hope.

We confess that something we cannot name or explain makes us long to be with the others who live close and the One who created this community.

To the God whom we suspect is present though unseen

Help us. Protect us from the dangers we are unaware of that lurk outside our walls.

Save us from isolation. Rescue us from the arrogance that keeps us alone in an empty house;

An empty house which you must have built. For I live here, but I confess, I have no tools.

When we find the courage to call out to You, hear us. Help us.

In silence, we wait for your knock upon our lonely door.

Be our teacher. Be our friend.

Amen.

Change

It is a beautiful Thursday on this 17th day of July.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 44. A few days ago I was 43.

Funny, I don’t feel any different. The calendar tells me something significant happened but if I didn’t have a calendar I wouldn’t have known there was anything special about that day. It just felt like another day.

Shadow_Birthday_Cake_medPrayer is like that.

Something life shaping slowly introducing changes to your life and body happens. You may not feel the difference. You might not immediately feel the change.

In prayer, a movement from this moment to that moment happens. We expect something significant is going to happen. But maybe, after the prayer has left our lips, it still just feels like another day.

When I started this week I was 43. Today I am 44. Whether I feel the change or not, something important is happening. At the very least I must introduce myself differently when asked: how old are you? In the tiniest way I am not the man I was. I am becoming someone new: new experiences and new challenges with each passing day and every passing year.

Prayer, though sacramental, is significant for us in incremental ways too.

Please receive this morning prayer for you

God who inspires change,

You know my weakness and failings, and that without Your help I can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, my own and others’. Grant me, therefore, the help of Your grace. Grant it according to my particular needs this day. Enable me to see the task You will set before me in the daily routine of my life, and help me work hard at my appointed tasks. Teach me to bear patiently all the trials of suffering or failure that may come to me today. And when I hear your voice, may I know it, listen closely to it and love it with all my heart.

In Your sacred name may it be so.

Prayer for the Beginning of the Day

metropolitan-Philaret
Saint Philaret was a prominent figure in preparing a Russian translation of the Bible, and wrote many volumes of theological and historical works collectively known as the Filaretica.

A Prayer of St. Philaret of Moscow (Eastern Orthodox)

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace, help me in all things to rely upon your holy will.
In every hour of the day reveal your will to me.
Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to throughout the day with peace of soul and with firm conviction that your will governs all.
In all my deeds and words, guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by you.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray.
And you, yourself, pray in me.
Amen.

Strong Hands

strong_hands_-e1375712498924

Inspired by Psalm 138

 

For your unfailing love and your faithfulness,

surpasses even your fame.

When we call, you answer;

We feel courage and boldness growing within us.

To the exalted One who looks with kindness on those who are low;

To the One who sees them from afar.

Though we walk right into trouble,

you save us.

You stretch out your strong hand against anger, and set ups and traps;

with your right hand you save us.

To the God who rescues when our cry is heard

We say

your love, Lord, endures forever—

You will never abandon the works of your hands.

And we are the work of your hands.

 

Remember us.      Walk among us.      Restore us.

Amen.

Who is that man?

…She became his wife; and he loved her… ~Genesis 24:67

The multiple hats on this pastor’s head argue over who is the greatest among them.

The Teaching Pastor wants to take this narrative about Abraham’s servant and the search for Isaac’s wife and sliced it up into a 3 part sermon:  1) Prepare  2) Pray  3) Wait.  Prepare by gathering as much information as you can; know what your goal is; explore alternative approaches; define unacceptable outcomes and failure so you have permission to pull the plug if it is going off course. Pray for God’s direction and look for clear indications that God is working to avoid the pitfall of succeeding in your own resourcefulness alone.  Unless the Lord builds the house…  Wait:  patience is the hardest part. Expect that God will be faithful and put it all together at just the right time and in the right way.  But, like Abraham’s servant, you must be prepared, prayed up, and watching for the hand of God to move ready to act when God provides the answer!

An inner Spiritual Director questions whether this is “unhelpful” and wants to let the passage speak for itself: push the Patriarchs aside and give room for Rebekah, this amazing woman, to speak out of her own story.  The virtues of strength and generosity are hers.  She is decisive.  She is beautiful. Her name is often translated: captivating but that only tells half the story.  Literally, Rebekah means “tied down”.  The connotation is positive.  Not a yoke of slavery or submission, this “tied down” means the important things are secured.  Cattle have been tended and won’t wander off.  The family’s goods are strapped down and won’t be lost in the sudden storm winds of the desert. Rebekah is a woman with a strong handle on things.  It gets done and done right when Rebekah is around.  Maybe that’s why her mother and her brother tried to keep her around for another week or two following her wedding proposal. Can you say more about that, Rebekah?

The Chaplain hears something else in the passage.  Isaac is comforted after his mother’s death. Sarah has died and Isaac is alone.  Practically an only child, Abraham is a workaholic absentee father. Isaac is, perhaps 40-ish by now, managing one of his father’s field offices.

Abraham and Sons Securities and Livestock, LLC. —Negev Branch

This must be a hard time for you, Isaac. How has the loss of your mother affected your work? Where do you see God in your life at this time?

The Student of Christ in me hesitantly raises a hand to half mast and wonders in a much too humble voice if Isaac’s dedication to meditation demands some attention.  Rebekah, in the original language, falls off her camel when she sees this man praying. Among his attributes of looks and wealth, is a developed prayer life equally attractive?

Then I call the class to attention.  Voices are silenced for a meaningful pause.

I ask this question:

Isn’t it enough to simply enjoy a love story?

Does it really need to be more than that?

God has brought a strong, beautiful woman to a lonely, godly man in a culture where marriages had more to do with clan preservation and consolidation of wealth.

Two distant lives become two hearts melting into one.

And no one noticed:

Right in the middle of the busyness of the business of religion, clan politics, financial transactions and work related stress

God wrote a love story.

…and they lived happily ever after…

 

Like the Lion…

Morning_Lionlion_morning

 

 

 

 

 

 

A morning prayer inspired by the Jewish tradition

Like the lion of the plains, may we also greet this morning with

Strength, Focus, and Purpose.

With gratitude, we thank You, Living and Eternal One

for returning our souls within us, with compassion.

 

Your faithfulness is limitless.

 

Our God is a God of Happiness and Joy

who cleanses our mind, our body, and our soul

with instruction, holy habits, and ethic.

 

Thank You for shaping us in this holy image

so that good is found continually.

Purify our thoughts.

Purify our motives.

Purify our hands.

Sanctify all we do so that blessing and joy will visit our neighbor.

 

Amen.

 

Dangerous Love

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A Hebrew Bible in dust at rest in a library of a Christian University somewhere in the Midwest teased me with these words in its foreword. A Jewish work by Jewish scholars for a Jewish readership, the editor conveyed the exhaustive research which informed the translation. Illusory of the effort was a brief statement about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Some primitive manuscripts relayed a slightly different tale than the one which came later; the one traditionally given. In its original telling, Isaac dies but then is resurrected by God and given back to Abraham.

I cannot un-remember it. Not because I am Christian and this telling is a remarkable archetype, helpful to my own belief. But because of how it is unhelpful. Because the first question I am often asked about this dangerous patriarchal myth is, “Did God really expect Abraham to kill Isaac?” Like a newly discovered crime scene, rabbis, pastors, scholars and skeptics race to the scene with apologetic musings and condemning commentary. Let’s not make their mistake. Let’s not be in a hurry to rush in on this scene only to presuppose answers to questions only Abraham, Isaac and God can tell.

There is a harsh, uncomfortable reality in this tale that will be lost on the majority of soft thinking, spongy-worded spiritual people among us. Those who find it hard to comprehend how it is that conflict is essential to peace,or that love emerges through judgment and disciple, and not the absence of it, are among those who may be fated to forever view this patriarchal myth as if through the wide eyes of the ingenue archaeologist looking for the first time at strange hieroglyphs.

When I was a soldier we may have all said, “We’re all the same color here. We’re all green.” Actuality was that a caste system of competence separated us. Clearly defined lines. Support personnel were one caste. Another is combat support. Combat Arms was a little higher up the food chain, but don’t think that being an Infantry soldier made you elite. Among the Eleven Bravo (11B) military specialty is a class system. Each one rising only to one’s own level of incompetence. Above infantry were Rangers and Paratroop types who wore wings. Hybrids enjoyed special status: Airborne Ranger. Green Berets were more elite but it was an exceptional class of soldier who became the Special Forces soldier. Yes, we’re all green here, but no one casually compared the supply clerk or the mess sergeant to the class of elite soldier.

These soldiers were given something special, only to have it taken away.

These soldiers were tested more often, more severely, because more was riding on their success.

The nation entrusted more to them. The military has just cause to demand more.

On a mission, they would often be alone or small in number so their loyalty and resolve, confidence and competence had to be beyond proven.

So as you read this tale of incomprehensible demands on God’s first prophet, ask this also:

Is Abraham given the fierce, horrific task as a test because God has risked everything on this one man? Do we super focus on the trial? Is it better, perhaps, to simply salute the elite soldier; regard him as one we might aspire to be?

Carefully read the narrative. Study its words. It will rough you up a bit.

Maybe it is a story better handled by callouses than soft hands; better carried by spiritually war-torn veterans than academics.

Neither God nor Abraham nor Isaac are defined by this trial. Yet all are proven by it.

In Abraham’s mental, spiritual, and physical resolve we see a special forces elite who can remain present in each excruciating moment. He is not seduced by yesterday’s promise. He is not distracted by an imagined future.

Here I am, my son.”

Here I am, [my Lord].”

It is only in this moment the providence of God will be seen.

In fear and fire, it is only the moment we can manage.

The Love of God is dangerous; exhilarating; inviting us- driving us- to higher eschalons of trust.

Abraham is still teaching us what it means to walk together with God into a dangerous love relationship.

John 15:13 1 John 4: 18 Romans 5:8