Friday, July 20, 2012

A Prayer for the Tragedy in Colorado

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

Shots rang out in Aurora, Colorado. Some people were wounded by gas and bullets. Others were murdered.

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

May your light shine on the family and friends of the fourteen people who were killed during this senseless crime. There's no way to explain the darkness that indiscriminately murders children, women, and men. They were all someone's son, daughter, mother, or father - and nobody can fully understand the immense grief and righteous anger of their loved ones. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth.

May your light shine on the family and friends of the many people who were wounded. After simply showing up to see the new Batman movie to enjoy some entertainment, their evening took a tragic turn as they were physically wounded and psychologically scarred by being gassed and shot in a frightening rampage. Plus they had the additional trauma of watching others around them die. This must confound their pain 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 their recovery.

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 child? Why now? Why like this? Why during a movie? 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 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 frustration to reject acts and symbols of violence in our world and bless us with enough hope that we're inspired to work toward building a better world.

May your light shine on the murderer, James Holmes, 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 to 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 all the people who create the movies, music, and news that we watch each day. May it shine on filmmakers who make bloodshed look acceptable. May it shine on musicians who write songs that glorify violence. And may it 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 violence and rage in the media are 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 and images can do. And may their hearts be softened, their words be tempered, and their styles of entertainment be changed, so that their positions in the media can be used in the service of fostering a more civil, gracious, and peaceful nation.

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.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Progressive Christian Artists Network

Are you looking for progressive Christian music, art, and liturgies? Are you hoping to enrich worship in your congregation? Are you looking for resources based on the lectionary? Are you a musician or artist who wants to connect with other musicians and artists? Well, there's good news. The Progressive Christian Artists Network is a place where you'll find all of that and more! We are a network of musicians, artists, performers, writers, and more, all offering our creative gifts for the work of the church and in support of the progressive Christian movement. Click here to check us out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Serenity Prayer: Dharma in a Nutshell

How do we remain calm as we accept the reality of continual change? How do we remain relaxed in the midst of stress? How do we remain happy even when we see or feel suffering? James Eich of the Cedar Rapids Zen Center reflected on this exact topic in a recent newsletter. His discussion revolved around Reinhold Niebuhr's "Serenity Prayer." Eich's writing as a Buddhist is illuminating. It adds depth to the simple-yet-profound prayer. Here are his reflections:

The serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Can we reach that serenity in our fast-paced, technology-driven twenty-first century society? If so, how? Zen would offer that acceptance is through zazen and mindfulness in everything we do. We must give ourselves the time to do this. We must make zazen and mindfulness a permanent fixture of our practice.

To accept the things I cannot change. That's hard to do under any circumstances. And yet, we must accept life as it is and not as it was or as we wish it would be. We do this one breath at a time, one step at a time. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, "Peace is every step of the way."

The courage to change. To change does take courage. To change means feeling the fear and doing it anyway. To change means taking a leap of faith and trusting that the net will appear. What is that net? Our friends, our family, the new people and opportunities that come into our lives to give us what we need to find contentment and confidence - our sangha, the universe unfolding itself.

To change the things I can. Knowing what to change, what we can change means thinking critically and contemplatively and creatively about our lives. Again, we must find time and make time to do this. This thinking is not monkey-mind thinking, now inactive, not paralysis by analysis. Rather, it is dynamic. It is a mindfulness that comes from a combination of introspection, intuition and instinct.

The wisdom to know the difference. Wisdom is the knowledge of the heart and mind after years of experience and contemplation. Wisdom is awareness that all is impermanence and that this impermanence is interdependent. Wisdom is to know the difference between what we can change and what we can't change. Not always easy to do, and yet, if we can know the difference then we get closer to accepting our reality.