Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lucky in Lent

Lucky, Sean's sheltie, has come back to Philo. So has Sean.

But Sean is a busy guy - going to school, sports' practices, etc. I see a lot more of Lucky. Lucky just basically hangs around the house.

I wonder if taking care of Lucky can or should be undertaken as a Lenten discipline. It's not alms-giving, prayer or fasting. But, it is sort of a pebble-in-the-shoe type of experience. Lucky's presence is a very small tear in the tissue of the illusion I spin - the illusion that my life is under my control. So maybe he will prompt some spiritual growth this Lent. We'll see.

At the very least he is a good excuse to re-tell my favorite dog joke:

A dog looks at you and thinks to himself, "You feed me and give me water. You take me out and pet me. You care for me when I am sick. You love me. You must be God."

A cat looks at you and thinks to himself, "You feed me and give me water. You change my litter box and pet me. You care for me when I am sick. You love me. I must be God."

Lent is about remembering who is God.

Prayer for Thursday morning

Good morning, dears!

Here is the prayer for tomorrow morning:

O Lord, open my lips. And my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Loving God, as the rising sun chases away the night, so you have scattered the power of death in the rising of Jesus Christ, and you bring us all blessings in him. Especially we than you for
the community of faith in our church . . .
those which whom we work or share common concerns . . .
the diversity of your children . . .
indications of your love at work in the world. . .
those who work for reconciliation . . . .
Mighty God, with the dawn of your love you reveal your victory over all that would destroy or harm, and you bright5en the lives of all who need you. Especially we pray for
families suffering separation . . .
people different from ourselves. . . .
those isolated by sickness or sorrow . . .
the victims of violence or warfare . . .
the church in the Pacific region . . .

O God, you are the well-spring of life.
Pour into our hearts the living water of your grace,
that we may be refreshed to live this day in joy,
confident of your presence
and empowered by your peace,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lord's Prayer
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace
through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Bless the Lord.
The Lord's name be praised.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Prayer Critique (Not)

Prayer is so personal. Some people don't like to have any structure at all. It just wells up in them. But I love words. And I love God through words, so having a written prayer seems very natural and spiritual to me.

I've probably told you this, but the first church I served (I couldn't say MY first church) was not too "pastor-friendly", one might say. Right out of seminary, I was really trying my best. And each week, along with a sermon, I wrote a pastoral prayer. I slaved over the phrasing, and the words, and the images. It took a long time. Then during a session meeting one old codger - I mean elder - looked at me in disgust and said, "Some preacher! Can't even pray without reading." Now, looking back, I wonder if he COULD read. But at the time I was cut to the quick. It seems to me like criticizing another person's prayer style is something only Jesus could pull off.

Morning Prayers

Oh - I am so glad to see some comments and know I have some company!
Morning has always been my favorite time of the day - especially for praying.

I've been taking my "Book of Common Worship" over to church. It has a morning prayer service, with a psalm (I've just been using 51) and a different prayer for each day of the week. Want to see Wednesday's?

(they all start with this:)
Satisfy us with your love in the morning
and we will live this day in joy and praise.

God of all mercies, we praise you that you have brought us to this new day,
brightening our lives with the dawn of promise and hope in Jesus Christ.
Especially we thank you for
The warmth of the sunlight, the wetness of rain and snow, and all that nourishes the earth. . . .
The presence and power of your Spirit . . .
The support and encouragement we receive from others . . . (!)
Those who provide for public safety and well-being . . .
The mission of the church around the world . . .
Merciful God, strengthen us in prayer that we may lift up the brokenness of this world for your healing, and share in the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Especially we pray for
Those in positions of authority over others . . .
The lonely and forgotten . . .
Children without families or homes . . .
Agents of caring and relief . . .
The church in Asia and the Middle East. . . .
Eternal God,
you never fail to give us each day all that we ever need,
and even more.
Give us such joy in living and such peace in serving Christ,
that we may gratefully make use of all your blessings,
and joyfully seek our risen Lord
in everyone we meet.
In Jesus Christ we pray.
The Lord's Prayer.

And it ends with
May we continue to grow in the grace and knwoledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen
Bless the Lord.
The Lord's name be praised.

At each of the ". . . " I try to fill in with something specific, if I can. Or be still for a few seconds, at least. And as the week goes on, I find the "prompts" in the prayers (different each day) really do remind me of prayer concerns in the congregation, my family and the world.

Is having a shared prayer helpful? I'll post Thursday's tomorrow, just in case.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Literary Lent

My English literature studying son is home for a couple of days, and in honor of his highbrow presence, I am sharing this poem by W.H. Auden - "He Is the Way".
I found the poem as lyrics to a Lenten hymn in the Worshipbook, the Presbyterians '80s attempt to have a cool, modern worship resource. It's such a beautiful poem, I ran to the piano to see how it sounded with the tune. Awful! Just awful!

But the words are remarkable:

He is the Way.
Follow him through the Land of Unlikeness;
You will see rare beasts, and have unique adventures.

He is the Truth.
Seek him in the Kingdom of Anxiety:
You will come to a great city that has expected your return for years.

He is the Life.
Love him in the World of the Flesh;
And at your marriage all its occasions shall dance for joy.

- W.H. Auden

I especially like the idea that at the end of the journey "you will come to a great city that has expected your return for years". I like small town living. Maybe I will have to think about why heaven is "The City of God".

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ash Wednesday Dust

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I know this is a solemn day. But even today, you have to laugh a little.

Here's something from the Dilbert creator's website about how to look smarter than you are:

"It’s important to agree with people if you want them to think you are a genius. For most people, the definition of smart is “Thinks exactly like me but even more so.” If you think that disagreeing and offering excellent reasons for your thinking will change anyone’s mind, you might be new on this planet."

Sometimes some of you forget this when you are talking to me . . . or maybe you just don't care whether or not I think you are a genius. . .
Either way - thanks. You keep me humble. Sort of like Ash Wednesday. (See! It all circles around!)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Packing for the Trip

Did you get to the beach and find you'd forgotten to pack your swimsuit?
Or to the mountains and find that you don't have hiking shoes?

No? Me either. My packing problem is that I always take way too much. And I think that's possible on the Lenten journey, too. Maybe that's one reason the church's tradition of "giving up something for Lent" makes sense.

What do I need to leave behind so that I can pay more attention to Jesus and the journey?

Grudges? Worries about how this or that situation is going to work itself out? Self-pity?
Or maybe I'll just give up chocolate. That would be easier.

Is there something you'd like to give up for Lent, so that you can travel lighter?

And what are "must haves" for the trip? The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday is Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21: Jesus advising his disciples about the proper way to do alms-giving, prayer and fasting. Those three are traditional practices for Lent.

Alms-giving. Prayer. Fasting. How do I fit those into my bag? How do you?

One possibility for the prayer part is a resource from the Presbyterian Church, USA. It's a little family devotion for each day of Lent. Find it at

Living so close to the Philo Pres. sanctuary gives me the opportunity to start the day with morning prayers there. I'm usually there about 6:30. Let me know if you'd like to join me and I'll leave the door (to the "prayer closet"?) unlocked.

Taking a Trip Together

You never really know someone until you take a trip with them. There are things you can not learn about a friend or acquaintance any other way.
Who sticks to the interstates?
Who loves "blue highways"?
Who stops at fruit stands beside the road,
and who prefers familiar franchises for food along the way?
Who stops early and often,
and who pushes to get an extra 50 or 100 or 250 miles down the road
before stopping for the night?
Often what we learn brings us closer to our traveling companion, as we share experiences and face challenges together.

Lent is described as a "journey" - since during Lent we remember how Jesus "set his face for Jerusalem" and traveled toward the cross that awaited him there.

My idea for this space is that it will give us an opportunity to travel together during the season of Lent. From Ash Wednesday til Easter, let's take the Journey to Jerusalem together with each other and with Jesus.
We'll use the Gospel readings for the season as our "signposts" and everyday (at least I'll try to do it everyday) I'll post my observations on what I'm seeing out the car window. My hope is that you'll want to comment, question or critique my "posts". All you have to do is hit the "comments" button at the end and add your thoughts on the trip so far. We'll consider each other "fellow travelers" as we move through Lent toward Easter.