Wednesday, January 31, 2007
We pray for children
Who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes
We pray for children
Who stare at photographers from behind broken windows,
Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
Who never "counted potatoes,"
Who are born in places where we wouldn't be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an x-rated world.
We pray for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who cover themselves with Band-aids and sing off key,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.
We pray for children
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who watch their parents watch them suffer,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren't on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed, and never rinse out the tub,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church and scream in the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.
We pray for children
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren't spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being,
We pray for children who want to be carried
And for those who must,
For those we never give up on and for those
Who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother…and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
Kind enough to offer it.
Prayer taken from The Souper Bowl of Caring
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I can remember someone asking me why Christians sing so often in their churches. It puzzled him that we spend so much time in worship using music and songs to convey our praise and prayers. "If you cut out the music," he said, "everyone would get out at 11.30 a.m. It wouldn't make any difference to God. He's only interested in your prayers anyway."
Obviously, this person hadn't read the Bible. It's full of songs and is written lyrically. The Scriptures are meant to be sung: joyfully as in the Psalms, or dolefully as in Lamentations; loudly like the angels on the hillside, or quietly like Mary giving praise to God.
There's even a verse in Scripture -- the one that we have today -- which tells us that God Himself likes to sing! Music is an integral part of creation, heaven, and salvation. Song is a sacred vehicle through which we approach God, confess to Him, and praise His glorious name. If we were to take out music from our worship, if we were to remove all singing, we would be left with something tedious, droll, and unfeeling.
Music captivates our hearts and connects with our souls, so that in turn, we may mystically connect with God. And one day, when all of His Son's followers are gathered in eternity, we will hear the most beautiful voice and the most beautiful singing in all creation, because that will be the sacred moment when God sings and rejoices with those who are saved.
Sing to the Lord a joyful song,Lift up your hearts, your voices raiseTo us His gracious gifts belong,To Him our songs of love and praise.
- John Samuel Bewley Monsell
Devotional written by Stushie - writer of Aaron's Beard, Heaven's Highway & Stushie's Stuff blogs
Friday, January 26, 2007
So, I was really excited when I discovered that Creighton University offers the Retreat in an online format. I have looked through the web page, although I confess I haven't tried to complete any of the weekly readings.
I was wondering if anyone has done this?
For me the Spiritual Exercises was an incredibly powerful introduction to meditative prayer. I think I would have missed that if I did the online version.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
and we are as a pebble.Thou art a great Sea,
and we are as a drop.
And thou are a very great Power,
and we are as a creature.
So teach us to speak as a child
and not as a god.
From Prayers Form an Island, Richard Wong. John Knox Press, 1968.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Sunday, January 21, 2007
We have a grape myrtle tree right in the middle of our back lawn. When mowing season begins, I have to struggle past the tree with my lawnmower. The tree is also on the side of a hill, so it’s not an easy obstacle to circle. And when it reaches its peak growth in the Fall, the new branches that have sprouted are thick and hard to negotiate around.
Some friends have suggested that to make life easier I should just cut down the tree, pull up its stump, and re-grass the lawn. It certainly would make things less difficult for me. But there’s a story behind the tree, which is why it continues to exist in the middle of the lawn, at the crest of the hill.
We purchased the house from a young couple who had three boys. After we finally closed the deal, the mother drew us aside and asked, “Please promise that you won’t cut down the myrtle tree. I had a miscarriage and we lost our baby girl. We planted the tree in memory of her.”
So, during the mowing season, I circumnavigate the tree because of a promise that we made, and in memory of a little girl that we didn’t know. And if ever we have to move or sell the house, I’ll say to the buyers, “Please promise you won’t cut down the myrtle tree.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Righteous branch that sprouted from the line of David. Your connection to him across the centuries fulfilled the promises of God. Graft each of us onto Your Branch, so that we may grow in Your goodness and continue to fulfill those righteous promises. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Stushie is the writer of Heaven's Highway, a daily devotional blog; Stushie's Stuff, a current religious stories and faith issues blog; and Aaron's Beard, a weekly prayer site for worship services.
Friday, January 19, 2007
This is ThornCrown Chapel a marvel of grace and beauty just outside Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The builder of the chapel originally bought the property for his retirement home. Instead, this chapel that wasn't intended to be, that the builder didn't have the funds to finish; has been named 4th on the American Institute of Architects' list of the top buildings in America built during the 20th Century.
It is one of those places that takes your breath away. There are pages of pictures on the web page. None of them do it justice. I have been there -- in the stillness, and the sunlight, the trees and the Ozark mountains.
If you are locked into freezing rain, sleet and snow; as I am. Page through the picture galleries.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Thank You for the gift of this child,
the life that s/he will share,
the mind that his/er parents will help mold,
the body that his/er parents will nurture,
& this spirit that his/her parents will enrich.
Help them to never betray this child’s trust,
dampen their child’s hope,
or discourage their child’s dreams.
Strengthen his/er parents, dear God,
to help this precious child become all you mean him/er to be.
Let your grace
& love fall on him/er like gentle breezes
& give him/er inner strength
& peace & patience for the journey ahead.
In the name of Christ Jesus. Amen
Monday, January 15, 2007
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.How well is our country, our churches, our denomination, and ourselves doing at living out Dr. King’s dream?
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today!
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together." (Isaiah 40:4-5)
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I was deeply affected by animated movies more so than the live action ones. The secret of Nimh, Wizards, The bugs Bunny movies,
When I was a little boy I saw the movie Wizards for the very first time. I was absolutely captivated by this movie. The movie is about two brothers Avatar the good one and Blackwolf the evil one born to a fairy queen. They exist in a post apocalyptic world devastated by humanities depravity and technologies. Blackwolf and Avatar are destined to collide in a war that will destroy the new earth. Blackwolf is hideous and deformed he becomes an outcast. He seeks to rediscover ancient technologies of warfare and destruction to conquer the peoples of the earth.
Avatar (Blackwolf’s brother) lives his life with ease and worries about nothing. He leisurely lives paralyzed by the fear that he will usher in the destruction and end that his birth prophecy foretells. With Peace, the enemy solder that crosses over to Avatars side of good, the “fairy lover” of avatar, Elinor they go to fight Blackwolf’s army of trolls and ogres. The Blackwolf army is incensed as they approach battle pumped up by old Nazi propaganda films and ancient war machines.
Being the war-mongering adolescent I was the idea of weaving a story involving swords, magic, guns, and tanks filled my mind with never before imagined possibilities. I could slash my brothers and cousins with my sword while keeping their minions at bay with my magic skills. It was the war movie clips which left their mark on me. These clips showed tanks and machine gun wielding soldiers marching to war…flame throwers in tow.
For years I had these images burned into my psyche and had no idea what they were from until I was older and caught this film again. It was then I realized that the movies were of Nazi origin and the idea of magic and technology fascinated me deeper. I was blown away by the ideas presented in the film. It is simple enough ‘good verse evil’. There is a villain and a hero that has a hottie on his arm. I began to see something deeper, the destruction of humanity. I began to wonder,”Is humanity destroying itself?”
Who are our trolls and ogres being lead by the evil Blackwolf? Who represents the all-good Avatar and his honor bound disciples? Your answers will vary by geography, ideology, and age, conviction, preference for oil, tea, coffee, cheese, and any other randomly consumed bit of capital. There is personal conviction in every archetype prescribed to in our world view. This view laden with absolute conviction that we are correct. Some may proclaim that others are misguided and fooled into their beliefs…perhaps ‘they and them’ are just not enough of something or too much of something else.
I see the character of Peace in this film and set out to define, relate, examine, and ponder him closer. He is the bridge between the good and evil sides. He is a tragic figure unable to find the longing of his heart…peace. He begins his existence in the film as a loyal soldier of the evil Blackwolf and is chosen to assassinate the good Avatar. Peace fails and is captured. He is not destroyed rather his violence is met with love, kindness, and compassion. He receives from his captures grace and he becomes aware of another way to live. He moves convicted towards combating evil and helps lead the charge to stop Blackwolf.
It is in this endeavor that he losses his life in battle defending Avatar and the grace he received. Peace humbled himself in his zeal to follow orders to become a servant of good. My point being that ones perspective determines good and evil. Righteousness is the only true marker and that is Gods alone. Peace demonstrated the greatest gift one could give he laid down his life for others.
Today we are faced with an amazing amount of turmoil, destruction, corruption, disagreement, and pain. In the midst of all of these terrible things we are provided the joy of childbirth, the success of education, the comfort of a meal or the ability to share a meal, the smile of friendship and commitment and the ability to accept, love, and serve all. Love is our grandest command. Jesus Christ calls us with the words, “to love one another!” I have witnessed far too many Christians focusing on particular passages or verses to eisegete God into their needed supportive documentation. The emergent church or the orthodox church, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, catholic, reformed, covenant, or non-denominational when will being a Christian be absent of moral claims and definitions? When does radical submission to God via the example of Jesus Christ be the measuring stone to servanthood and love?
We are bogged down with religious hierarchy and dogmatic mud slinging. We slash our culture with legalistic fever and alienate the masses that desperately seek meaning, hope, and peace in these stressful, terrorized, and unsure days. It is not for absence of desire to fill this void deep within the bellies of creation which inhibits a personal relationship with Christ and fulfillment of communion with God. I know “Christians” that have personal relationship with Christ and miss the meaning of this freedom, salvation, and peace we ALL are freely given in Christ. I also know Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims that could be called “Christ like” and have been used as vehicles of transformation.
In the southern hemisphere Christianity is growing at a rapid pace. The growth is largely of the evangelical vain. With prophets, bishops, disciples, and right reverends offering to those living in poverty relief and hope from the dilapidated and deplorable conditions they exist in. Jesus is sought as a remedy for the physical relief from tortuous conditions. Jesus is an agent of salvation, not just Spiritual, but Physical.
I relate this to the movie Wizards. The war that came and destroyed the human race was fueled by the escalation of differences. They could not see beyond the current disagreements of power and prestige based in the manifestation of ‘us, them, you, and me’. Having destroyed the populations of the planet a collection of fantastic creatures takes over imbued with magic. Technology is banned and the dangerous mind of evil unleashes these same weapons upon the earth.
Today as Christians we must be aware of the existence of the growing schism between western Christianity and southern hemisphere dogma. I fear that with the compounding of a lack of interest and growth in the western churches and the growth of a conservative and suspicious church in the southern half Christianity is on a crash course for destruction. This is only further exasperated by the growth of a fundament Islamic understanding in the same growth areas as Christianity. This may bring further jihad and a resurgence of crusade.
I use the thought of Wizards to illustrate the bridge of “Peace”. I see this as the only successful option we have today. We have to first dialogue with each other and understand the differences that separate us ideologically, politically, socially, and personally with our emotions entrusted with the working grace of Jesus Christ. Then can move forward collectively as a whole and bridge the ever-widening gap between this position and one held in the developing Christian world. We need each other…the assembly absent of one sister or brother is not complete. From
The war in the Middle East shows no sign of diminishing, especially with our troop escaltion, and now Iran is rattling sabers, too. People back in Scotland are outraged at the war, but not because of the combatants and their causes. They are incensed because two U.S. military planes carrying uranium bunker bombs were flown in to Prestwick Airport in the West of Scotland, on their way to supplying the Israelis with other weapons.
Prestwick is a beautiful seaside town, where many Scots go on vacation at this time of year. It was the favorite place for summer holidays for my family and, several years ago, my siblings and I scattered our parents’ ashes along Prestwick’s shore. If one of those planes had crashed near the airport, there would have been a lot of damage and devastation, which would have made the Lockerbie disaster look miniscule. Scots people understand the sovereign right of countries to defend themselves and sometimes it means going to war, but what they hate is being taken for granted and used as pawns. It has soured their relationship with our nation. Someone, somewhere in the Pentagon, made a rash decision and we have caused a staunch ally to rethink its military partnership with us.
“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” Those words were written almost three thousand years ago, but they still apply as much today as they did in Solomon’s time. You would think that with all of our progress, technology and sophistication we would learn from our mistakes, but sadly it seems we’re doomed to repeat them again and again.
Some people say “pray for peace”, but perhaps it would be more biblical to “pray for wisdom.” After all, peace will come when we start thinking about God’s guidance over the hearts and minds of the sides involved, and not on our own missile guidance systems.
Prayer: Lord God, help us to find Your wisdom and seek the art of peace. Grant us the courage to go beyond outcries and outrage, wrath and rebellion, waste and war. Let Your Son’s precious guidance rule over our nations; let His eternal sovereignty be proclaimed, experienced and fulfilled. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.
Stushie is the writer of the Heaven's Highway daily devotional blog; the world religious news blog "Stushie's Stuff" and the weekly Sunday service prayers "Aaron's Beard."
Friday, January 12, 2007
Creeds of Christendom is an on-line resource that is definitely for dedicated church geeks.
Ever wondered what creeds, if any, are recognized by Mennonites and Anabaptists, or just need the text for the Brethren Card or the Schleitheim Articles?
Perhaps you need the exact differences between the Creed of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed or maybe just something really basic like the Apostles' Creed in Greek?
Welcome to Creeds of Christendom, pretty much the ultimate on-line Creed resource -- Ancient, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Puritan, Quaker, Reformed, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army, UCC, and more.
Ok, foolish question for you. How many of you knew that this web page existed?
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
We remember the conviction of Martin Luther King Jr. that
"freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor
it must be demanded by the oppressed."
Therefore, let us pray
for courage and determination
by those who are oppressed. . . .
We remember Martin's warning that
"a negative peace which is the absence of tension"
is less than "a positive peace which is the presence of justice."
Therefore, let us pray
that those who work for peace on our world
may cry out first for justice. . . .
We remember Martin's insight that
"injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality
tied in a single garment of destiny.
Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
Therefore, let us pray
that we may see nothing in isolation,
but may know ourselves bound to one another
and to all people under heaven. . . .
We remember Martin's lament that
"the contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice
with an uncertain sound.
It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo.
Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church,
the power structure of the average community
is consoled by the church's silent and often vocal sanction
of things as they are."
Therefore, let us pray
that neither this congregation nor any congregation of Christ's people
may be silent in the face of wrong,
but that we may be disturbers of the status quo
when that is God's call to us. . . .
We remember Martin's hope that
"dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away
and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted
from our fear-drenched communities
and in some not-too-distant tomorrow
the radiant stars of love and brotherhood
will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty."
Therefore, in faith,
let us commend ourselves and our work for justice
to the goodness of almighty God.
Quotations from Letter from the Birmingham City Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.; Litany by W. B. McClain and L. H. Stookey, U.S.A., 20th Cent. From The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992.)
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Matthew 2:1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
There are two parts of this Epiphany story that have always fascinated me. Firstly, the wise men in the story get lost – which shouldn’t surprise anyone, for when do men ask for directions? They end up in the wrong town because they lost the Star. God’s GPS broke down, but why? Was it too cloudy? Did they argue when it by-passed Jerusalem? Did they miscalculate, or did the sky seem different when they reached a new time zone?
Whatever the cause, at one point they were on the right path, and then they suddenly end up in front of Herod. It seems as though they were more enamored about short-cutting and completing their mission, instead of faithfully following the Star. It’s so easy to get lost when our zeal and ambition take over. We end up taking quick ways and making the wrong moves.
Take President Ford’s funeral for an example. The clergy leader read the Gospel passage from John 14:1-6, but he stopped halfway through the last verse. He read out “Jesus replied, “I am the Way, Truth, and Life,” but purposely left out the words “No one comes to the Father except by me.” In other words, he abbreviated the message, took a theological short cut, and missed the whole point of the verse – that no one comes to God without Jesus.
But the other part of the story of the Magi that fascinates me happens when they are told in a dream not to go back the way in which they came. In other words, once you meet and find Jesus, you can’t turn back. It’s a bit like that old song “I have decided to follow Jesus,” which ends each verse with “No turning back, no turning back.”
So, for 2007, will we be content on following the Star of our lives, Jesus Christ; or will we become distracted by our own vision and mission, only to lose our way to salvation? As always, the choice is ours.
Stushie is the writer of Heaven's Highway and Stushie's Stuff blogs. He also writes a weekly prayer service for Presbyterian's world wide, which you can now find his new Aaron's Beard blog.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Thursday, January 04, 2007
It took me a minute to figure out. Maybe it was late -- and maybe I am just a little slow; but just in case, I will explain how it works. The main page makes it obvious that you are supposed to select a Book and chapter. Then, it displays the text of that chapter over the satellite image -- except the image doesn't change. You have to scroll down through the text until you find a highlighted place name. Click on that place name and the image changes.
There are also three events you can view. They are the three missionary journeys of Paul. All in all, it is a cool site.
Check it out.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
A time of moving beyond what is “reasonable”
And toward the star of wonder;
Moving beyond grasping tight to what we have
To unclenching our hands and letting go,
Following the Light where it leads;
Moving beyond competition toward cooperation,
Seeing that all humans are sisters and brothers.
Moving beyond the anxiety of small concerns
Towards the joys of justice and peace.
May the transforming acceptance of Mary and Joseph,
The imagination of the shepherds,
And the persistence of the wise men
Guide us as we seek the Truth,
Always moving toward the Divine promise.
Always aware God can be hidden in the frailest among us,
Always open to the unexpected flash of Grace,
To the showing forth of that Love that embraces us all.
From Education for Justice - www.educationforjustice.org. Adaptedby J.M. Deren from "Blessings and Benedictions," by W.L. Wallace in Shine On, Star of Bethlehem, CAFOD, 2004.
Monday, January 01, 2007
So here is this week questions: What creative resolutions have you or someone you know, made this year or in the past? (and resolving to not make any resolutions is not an option).