Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prayer For Civility

Gracious God, we stand before You to ask for healing and forgiveness. Sins of division have disconnected us from civil conversation, from one another, and from You.

Some of us have been hurt by adversarial rhetoric and uncivil conversation. We have felt the sting of pointed comments. We have heard people belittle our deepest passions. We have watched shock jocks become primetime commentators. And in the process, we get harmed and forget that we are made in Your sacred image, Holy One. For this, we ask for healing.

Some of us have hurt others by using adversarial rhetoric and uncivil remarks. We have made pointed comments. We have belittled the beliefs of others. We have tuned in to watch shock jocks, giving them an audience. And in the process, we have harmed others and cause others to forget that they are made in Your sacred image, Holy One. For this, we ask for forgiveness.

Some of us have been left with disillusionment by what has happened to Barack Obama as he became president. We have seen his post-partisanship chewed up and spit out. We have seen lobbyists mute the voice of voters. We have seen polemic rhetoric and sound-bites drown out the nuance and beauty of real dialogue. And in the midst of this disillusionment, we forget that Your will for us is to have complete joy and abundant life, Loving God. For this, we ask for healing.

Some of us have been lured into the cyclone of cable news. We listen to their sound-bites. We repeat their talking points. We share their alarmist stories. And in the midst of this cacophony, we fail to hear Your voice of wisdom, Loving God. For this, we ask for forgiveness.

Gracious God, please forgive what needs to be forgiven, so we can start afresh on the path to civility. And please heal what needs to be healed, so we can be connected more deeply with one another and with You, Loving God. Weave us together into a beautiful tapestry of peoples.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Prayer for the Tragedy in Norway

Loving God, darkness has covered Norway, and thick darkness has descended upon the people. Tragedy has clouded out the light.

A bomb blasted through the Regjeringskvartalet, Norway's main government building, in the center of Oslo. Some were wounded by the explosion. Others were killed. Then a short time later, shots rang out at the Labor Party's youth camp on Utøya island. Some were wounded by bullets. Others were murdered.

In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.

May your light shine on the people who were in or near the Regjeringskvartalet during the explosion. After over six decades building a free, open, and just society, this bombing must have filled Norwegians with a cloudy midnight of immense grief and righteous anger. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth.

May your light shine on the people who were gathered at the youth camp on Utøya island. After gathering for a summer program, a man dressed as a police officer asked to address the youth about the bombing in Oslo and then began shooting them with an automatic weapon. This must confound their loved ones and the survivors in ways we can only imagine. So, we do what we can, Loving God, and pray for your light to make its way in their lives – and in the recovery of the survivors.

May your light shine on the family and friends of all of those who were wounded or murdered in this act of terrorism. This tragedy has sent ripples of grief and anger through all of these people, as they ask the questions anyone would ask. Why? Why her? Why him? Why a kid? Why now? Why like this? Why? This is a moment where there is a “dark night of the soul” for many people. So, we pray that you hold them in your light. Please bless all those around them, not with platitudes, but with comforting words and healing acts. And in the weeks and months ahead, bless them with a passion for seeking justice and building a more peaceful world.

May your light shine on all of us who are saddened and sickened by the news of this act of violence. We suffer from afar as we hear about this on our TVs, and read about it on our computers and in our newspapers. In our own work of processing this event, Holy God, bless us with enough hope to build a better world, enough grace to respect diversity, and enough frustration to reject acts and symbols of violence in our world.

May your light shine on the murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, whose darkness overcame his light. Perhaps he has a long history of perverse decision making. Perhaps his family history was painful. Perhaps his social life was conflictual. Perhaps his mental health was compromised. Perhaps his community of support was of little support. Whatever darkness overtook this man, may there be a way for light to peek through into his life.

May your light shine on the friends and family of the murderer – who may be asking questions for which there are no easy answers. May their sadness, anger, guilt, and shame be accepted by those around them, as they process this situation. And someday, may they be able to see and know that light does shine in the darkness - and the darkness will not overcome it.

And may your light shine on the political pundits and shock jocks who fill the media with hatred, rage, and incivility. There’s no such thing as a lone gunman – and sometimes the rage on the airwaves is enough to tip the balance of an already imbalanced person. Yet the people who fill the airways with this kind of darkness need light, too. So, Loving God, through your light, may they see the damage that their words do to the civil discourse in our world. And may their hearts be softened, their words be tempered, and their styles of engagement be changed, so that their positions in the media can be used in the service of fostering a more civil, gracious, and peaceful world.

Even in the midst of this tragedy, may we hold onto the hope that your light will continue to shine forth in the darkness until we are able to boldly proclaim, with the author of Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for our light has come, and the glory of God has risen within us.” Amen.

This prayer is based on Isaiah 60:1-2.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mindfulness Version of the Lord's Prayer

Holy Presence, your name is truly sacred. May your vision for the world be realized, and may your will be done in our lives as it is in heaven. Provide us with the goodness of food and remind us to enjoy it mindfully. Forgive us for the times that we have rushed through life, not noticing the small miracles around us. And please forgive those who haven’t had enough time to notice us. Lead us all into abundant life in the here-and-now of our lives, and lead us away from the busyness that makes us live too far in the past or future. For the here-and-now Kin-dom, here-and-now power, and here-and-now glory are yours this moment and forever. Amen!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Top 10 Cliches That Should Be Retired

1. Everything happens for a reason.
2. It's really a both/and.
3. That's like comparing apples and oranges.
4. Every cloud has a silver lining.
5. God works in mysterious ways.
6. Kill two birds with one stone.
7. It is what it is.
8. God never gives us more than we can handle.
9. Money doesn't grow on trees.
10. LOL

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why everyone should say F-You!

Forgiveness is the new F-word. Gotta love creative preaching. Check it out:

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mindfulness Doxology

Praise God who stills our busy mind
Praise God in whom true peace we find
In God we meditate and pray
That mindfulness is ours this day

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Help: A Film About Relationships, Race, and Revolution

Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel "The Help" has been turned into an outstanding movie about abiding relationships, racial justice, and the revolutionary power of writing. It stars Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen, and Octavia Spencer as Minny. It's a cast that seems like a strange combination until you see the magic on screen. They deliver this evocative story in authentic ways. The official synopsis says: "Deeply moving, filled with poignancy, humor and hope, 'The Help' is a timeless and universal story about the ability to create change." Watch the trailer here:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Review (3): Sara Kay // On The Way

Carisa Peterson's review of Sara's album On The Way:

Having lived for a number of days with Sara Kay's debut collection of inspirational tunes, "On The Way" spiraling out of my car speakers on MY way to and fro, I'm left delighted and refreshed. The album begins with a couple of rather catchy numbers including "Be Opened"--the 'be' so gracefully emphasized that it serves as a reminder to just BE in this age of always trying to acheive and juggle our many responsibilities, in addition to the more obvious message of the song which calls people to spend a moment with Sara Kay in musical contemplation and worship.

Track 3, "Of Lament and Hope (Psalm 13)" is vaguely reminiscent of some of the best moody alt-coffeehouse rock of the late 90's, again proving in Sara's unique way that inspirational Christian music doesn't have to be lambs and lollipops and oftentimes is more meaningful when it touches on the more melancholy strains of emotion.

"Victory (Psalm 3/Breast Cancer Song)" begins with an intriguing, perfect dissonance--setting the stage for what is a triumphant confection of a song, cheerily composed yet lyrically strong enough to handle the power necessary for just such a battle anthem.

"Share in the Feast" is melodically warm and welcoming enough to be backdrop for the most routine of communion services, but includes lyrics so modern and affirming that it deserves to be a showpiece embodying that which Christianity should (but sometimes does not) stand for.

I love the upset that track 10, "We Move" presents--the classic notion of God as a rock, but in this case refreshingly revealed as being impossible to perfectly cling to by its very nature--and it's exchanged for a new, more attainable and approachable image for the age we're living in, informed by a variety of faith traditions; and like the flowing water it speaks of, God becomes necessary for life itself in His updated earthly identity.

Edgy and evolutionary, Track 11, "Eve's Song" blasts apart the vilification of our first and one of our favorite antagonists, Eve--reframing her and the story we thought we knew as one of glorious clarity, coming into one's own being, and enlightenment; truly validating and inspirational.

"Holy Gardener" has enough pep and hook to be a much beloved Vacation Bible School theme, but is written exquisitely to carry 'us grown-ups' through our own weeks of dull tediosity with its colorful description of oft-forgotten surrounding beauty.

My heart swelled at the incorporation of melodies of two timeless hymns, in both "God of Movement" and "God of the Water and Land"--each an instant journey back to being a child and having a favorite tune spring up amidst an otherwise mundane Sunday morning, and which today stand as a comforting musical constant, albeit in this case spun with Sara Kay's linguistic charm.

The closing number, "Prayer for Healing" is the musical equivalent of a brief yogic cleansing breath, readying us to face what's next, having been better prepared for it by the time we've spent with Sara Kay.

I look forward to hearing more from Sara Kay, as she weaves her own unique perpsective together with traditional ideas--producing a novel sound and stage on which to continue building an ever-evolving faith.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

God Will Be Who God Will Be

What is God's name? Father? Lord? Yahweh?

In Exodus 3:13-15, the author says that God reveals God's name to Moses as, "I Am Who I Am." Other translations say, "I Will Be Who I Will Be." That's all we get. It's an odd name that doesn't reveal much about God. But that seems to be the point. The name of God is mysterious and meaning-filled. Instead of a simple name with a simple meaning, we get an ambiguous name with an ambiguous meaning. God's name itself invites us to remember that we cannot easily understand God in all of God's holiness. God can't be easily classified or put into neat theological boxes. God is always more than we can imagine. God's enigmatic name is expansive instead of limiting.

God's name isn't only ambiguous, it's also active. It's present tense. It's moving. God will be what God will be. As God moves and interacts with the world, God will be who God will be. God will change, shift, adjust, etc. So even if we could understand God in one moment, God might be different in the next moment. Therefore God's mystery is an ongoing mystery with continually emerging mysteriousness. This invites us to be agnostic toward any one name or understanding of God and welcoming of many names and understandings of God.

Creator, we praise your ongoing creation.
Potter, we celebrate your handiwork.
Wellspring, we drink in your sacred waters.
Holy Spirit, we bask in your abiding presence.
Mother Hen, we seek to be protected under your wings.
Lord, we claim you as our ultimate authority.
Deliverer, we seek to be led away from our troubles.
Advocate, we seek to be lifted up by you.
Rock, we seek to be steadied by your firm foundation.
River, we seek to be led along the banks of life.
Liberator, we seek to be released from all that oppresses us.
Great Physician, we seek to experience your healing power.
Conservationist, we cherish your care for the earth.
Commander-In-Chief of the Universe, we honor your leadership.
Artist, we thank you for including us in your masterpiece.
Peacemaker, we seek to be led to your shalom.
Lover, we rest in your embrace.
All-Weather Friend, we enjoy your faithful companionship.
Great Weaver, we seek to repair the rips in the web of life.
Black Christ, we thank you for your solidarity.
Great Spirit, we honor your presence in all living beings.
Band Leader, we dance to the rhythm of your sacred music.

All of this and so much more. God will be who God will be.