I have been trying to make sense of the events of the last week. The deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, the Dallas Police targeted and killed, and the bombings in Iraq and Turkey. And, just today a new shooting in Michigan. My heart is filled with sadness and tears and I could only cry out to God “Where Are YOU.”
“God where were you . . .
when suicide bombers chose to end their lives and take the innocent with them?
Where were you when 29 men and woman
enjoying a night out were used as target practice?
Where are you when cops shoot people,
when people shoot people,
when cops are targeted,
When people die, the good and the bad?”
God where are you . . .
when we are filled with emptiness by shooting after shooting,
when bombings and assaults become common place?
Where are you when we turn the news on and
another child has died, another cop is killed,
another person of color, differing abilities, or characteristics is assaulted or killed?”
“Why Oh God do you not answer?”
God said “I am there . . .
Holding the bodies as they bleed,
I am there leading the survivors’ out of danger.
I am there, holding the victim’s family’s in my arms
I am there in the broken hearts of witnesses, law enforcement.”
“When the darkness is greatest
I will sit with you, and listen to your sorrows,
I will hold you in my arms when you are weary.”
All I can do is lead the dying home to my arms,
to comfort those left behind, if they let me.”
“When pain and grief grip you
I will be there to tell you everything will be alright.
When you scream into the night,
I will come and comfort you,
I will dry your tears, and wrap you in my embrace.”
“I will be there when you are weary and in pain,
I will be there to lift you up, and comfort you,
All you have to do is call”.
God said, “I cry when you do not hear my voice, and
I cannot stop you from harming each other,
that choice is yours alone.
“All I can do is encourage each of you to stand up for justice and mercy.
All I can do is hope your hearts will soften
and let the love I have for each of you awaken your love for each other.
All I can do is wait for you to choose the path of justice, mercy, love and peace
between your selves and all that is created.”
God says “I gave you the choice of right or wrong,
It is up to you to choose. I will not make that choice for you
nor will I force you to choose one path over another!”
“You asked for freedom, it is your responsibility to choose.
Choose to use that freedom wisely.”
Many of us live in nice safe neighborhoods with few opportunities to interact with those who are disadvantaged except maybe on the street when we are approached by a homeless person. And while disasters are all too common today I would guess that most of us are relatively unaffected by such actions as shooting incidents or natural disasters. So today I would like you to put yourself, through your imagination and pictures, in places you might be uncomfortable with. I have chosen three pictures only two are images that may disturb you or make you uncomfortable. The third is a quiet scene and I would like you to ask compare your feelings of that scene with the others. This is not my usual spiritual practice but using our imagination to be in a place of comfort or discomfort is also a spiritual practice for it opens our hearts and minds to the possibilities of where we need to grow or what we fear. Finding God in uncomfortable places is just as important as finding God in places we are needed but don’t want to go.
Follow the directions for using the imagination combined with Visio Divina:
Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, people, places and things. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges?
What feelings arise within you as you gaze at the images? Do you feel fear; are you uncomfortable? When you gaze at pictures 1 and 3 then contemplate picture 2 what changes in you as you look at this serene scene. Do you see the sunset in a different way?
Respond to the images with prayer. Did the images remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer your thoughts as prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in the quiet moment. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
Numbers 6:26the Lord lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace.
Psalms 29:11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Peace certainly seems in short supply this year. We are preparing for the birth of light yet darkness seems to rule in so many places. My heart is heavy with sorrow for those who have been torn from their homes and are finding their presence in other countries is unwanted. I am ashamed of so many of my fellow American for buying into a fear that leaves people, many of them children, cold, hungry and without shelter. I am glad I live in a state willing to provide safe harbor for those fleeing violence in their homelands. While the transition will be difficult for the refugees I pray that they will find a place among us where they will enrich our lives in so many ways. I will welcome each and everyone one of them and offer my help in any way I can.
My heart also breaks for those who are victims of the growing violence within our own borders. Offering prayers for peace is such a little thing and often feels inadequate, yet, when those prayers motivate us into an action that prevents violence and provides a place of safety and peace then prayer is powerful indeed. And, we can be seeds of peace by offering gratitude for what we have, by saying we love ourselves and our neighbor, by opening our hands to help someone rather than lead off with a fist, by giving everyday to those who are not as fortunate as we are, and these are only a few of the things we can do to promote a peaceful place. Prayer is only a first step it is the second step that tells others what we are made of.
Yes peace is in short supply and that is why it is so important for each of us to plant our own small seed and maybe by the New Year we will have a forest.
My prayer for you is peace. Peace of mind, peace of spirit, a peace that comes only from being peace and giving peace away.
Meditations for a Mindful Advent Queen Anne Christian Church
Slow down . . . seek hope
Buy less . . . create peace
Eat less . . . embrace joy
Worry less . . . give love
Prepare your heart for new birth.
An Advent Prayer
God who causes stars to burn and energy to flow,
may Your presence be made known to us in new ways.
When we wonder where You are, shine Your light in new ways.
When we wonder why bad things happen, help us to find all of Your goodness.
When we feel hopeless, help us to become Your hope in the world.
You have created us out of stardust, and breathed into us life.
In You, all things are possible, and all things are created new.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, as we await the birth of the light of Christ
may we come to know You in new ways on this journey of faith. Amen.
Peace – The Second Week of Advent
Light two candles
Pray the “Advent Prayer” above.
We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives,
so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt,
that peace and abundance may manifest for all.
— Dorothy Day
An apology is the superglue of life.
It can repair just about anything.
— Lynn Johnston
Questions Morning: In anticipation of the day, what seeds of peace could you sow? Evening:Looking back on the day, where did you find peace?
Offer a prayer for those in need of peace; include yourself.
The only gift I have to offer this week is my sorrow for Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq, and all of us. So I offer the Psalms I go to when I am in the midst of sorrow and pain. May your hearts be comforted by the words of the psalmist and may you find solace knowing others cry with you.
Psalm 36:1-4 (MSG) A David Psalm 1-4 The God-rebel tunes in to sedition—
all ears, eager to sin.
He has no regard for God,
he stands insolent before him.
He has smooth-talked himself
That his evil
will never be noticed.
Words gutter from his mouth,
Can’t remember when he
did anything decent.
Every time he goes to bed,
he fathers another evil plot.
When he’s loose on the streets,
He plays with fire
and doesn’t care who gets burned.
Psalm 42 (NRSV)
1As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and behold the face of God? 3My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?” 4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng, and led them in procession
to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival. 5Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help 6and my God. My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan
and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows have gone over me. 8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9I say to God, my rock, “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?” 10As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” 11Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger.
I have always loved this couplet of St Patrick’s Breast Plate Prayer. In times of distress it has centered me and given me comfort. But as I was reading it for the umpteenth time in light of the recent school shootings in Oregon, Arizona and Texas I felt if St. Patrick would mind if I added a couple of lines to his prayer. You see this prayer says nothing of the compassion, mercy, or Justus we are asked to extend beyond ourselves and into the world. So St. Patrick doesn’t mind, well even if he does, I think an addition is in order, perhaps something like this:
Christ in the heart of the wounded,
Christ in the hands of the comforter,
Christ in our forgiveness,
Christ in our love for the enemy
Christ in our carrying for those who harm us
Christ in how we live day to day.
This is what I would add, and maybe you would add something else. But whatever you add let your words open your heart to both the victim and the one who commits the crime. That is what we are asked to do; it is a small thing but Oh so hard to succeed at.
I have been trying to think about what to say about the Umpqua shootings but my heart is breaking and my mind won’t process this. So I am asking you for your prayer this week to write letters to your legislators about gun legislation, talk to your neighbors about keeping safe, and get involved in your community and/or church youth programs. Talk kids and get to know your own children and the children they play with. Keep the kids involved with family and community and help them find safe ways to release anger and frustration. If you need a gun for hunting then talk to every member of the family about gun safety and keep your guns in a secure gun safe when you aren’t using them. I know that isn’t much but if all of us become more aware and involved in the efforts to regulate guns in a responsible manner than maybe, just maybe we won’t be speechless anymore.
Numbers 23:9a for from the top of the mountains I see him, from the hills I behold him;
On this beautiful Tuesday I ask only that you take a moment of silence. Hold in your hearts, the pain, suffering and loss from the deaths in Charleston North Carolina, Chattanooga TN. To remember the loss of so many who have needlessly died from Sandy Hook, to Marysville. As we lift up our eyes to the mountains open our hearts to those who suffer; the victims, the families. Hold the perpetrators in your heart as well, pray that light will enter the dark well they live in and bring them out of the darkness of their own making. Amen
We are all Homo Sapiens sapiens but we will never be Human Beings until we stop just surviving and begin to live in harmony with each other and all creation.
I have been trying to comprehend the shootings in South Carolina at the First Emanuel AME Church. Just as the acts in other mass shootings I simply can’t get my mind around a hatred that produces such evil. I have listened to the prayers for comfort and supplication. I have listened, unwillingly, to the NRA and other public speakers who blame the church pastor and members, or minimize the acts of the shooter. I can’t, or won’t, believe that 9 innocent people were the cause nor can I believe the shooter acted without encouragement.
You see, I believe we, you and I, are to blame for what happened in South Carolina. You and I, and everyone else regardless of skin color, privilege, ethnicity, or any other cultural classification are equally responsible for pulling the trigger and this is why I believe this.
We refuse to stand against acts of injustice, violence, discrimination, or the use of degrading speech. We listen politely and shake our heads and tell ourselves that offering a prayer that people will change is enough. We are afraid of what others might say about us if we stop someone in mid speech and tell them NO, I will not listen to this. We look the other way when someone abuses another. We tolerate public servants who degrade people of color, are poor, elderly, or have a religion they don’t follow. We have tolerated public servants who have spoken as if they are the only ones who matter, who have verbally abused our President and anyone else they disagree with or disagree with them.
We have created this atmosphere of hate and violence found in country today. Yes, I admit I am right there along with the rest of us. Have I stood up and defended someone being abused, sometimes yes but not always. I do it when it is convenient for me and that is not what we are called to do. We, you and I, are called by the Divine to be better than that.
This week I am recommending a spiritual practice of standing up and defending the voiceless. I am asking each of you to speak up when you hear someone abusing or degrading someone else. I am pleading with each of you to stand and be counted when you see injustice happening. As you go through this week remember this:
“8But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 The Message (MSG)
In the last weeks God’s creation has seemed anything but good. Terrorist attacks, ambushing of police, and police shootings of unarmed young men continue to rent the very fabric of our society. Yet God did not create an evil world, in fact God proclaims this world a good world where everyone, and I mean everyone, has what they need to live and be the person they are meant to be. It is our choice’s, not God’s, that have created a world that is unsafe.
Spending time in silent contemplation with a focus on what we could have been, and still could be, seemed the only way for me to center myself and see the world as good. So today I offer as our prayer of the week another Visio Divina using the above painting of the Garden of Eden by Jan Brueghel.
1. Study the picture slowly, taking a first glance noting the colors, the placement of the plants, animals and, people. Remain with the image for one to two minutes. If you would like, jot down a few words about the image.
Take a second, deeper, look. Where is there movement? What relationships do you see? Engage your imagination. Where are you in the artwork? What do you see from that perspective? What deeper meaning emerges? What feelings about the world rise in you? Are there any images that you are particularly drawn too?
Respond to the image with prayer for the world. Did the image remind you of an experience, person or issue for which you’d like to offer thanksgiving or intercession? Offer that prayer to God.
Find your quiet center. Breathe deeply. Relax your shoulders, arms and legs. Rest in this quiet. Let God pray in you. God prays beyond words.
Please do not let your belief, or non-belief, in the Garden of Eden and the subsequent fall from grace prevent you from seeing the good things in creation. Our world is in need of prayer right now. All of our people, all of creation is crying and in pain. Let your prayers go out into the world and let them lead you to be the person God has always wanted you to be.
As I am personally preparing for Christmas I have been disturbed by the amount of violence and death around the world. Peace on earth does not seem near. So as part of my morning ritual I have been doing Lectio Divina with the Psalms. They have brought me some comfort but this Psalm struck a chord within me and I wanted to share that with you. So this is a little different from most of my postings, as it is part of my journaling during my meditation. I am letting you in on a small part of my conversations I held with the Psalmist and God. They are my insights of the moment, so if I say something you disagree with please be gentle, it is after all a private conversation you are overhearing. At the end of my journaling you will find the steps for Lectio Divina. For your own Lectio Divina meditation you may use the whole Psalm, as I did, or only a verse or two.
Psalm 10, The Message (MSG)
1-2 God, are you avoiding me? Where are you when I need you?
Full of hot air, the wicked are hot on the trail of the poor.
Trip them up, tangle them up in their fine-tuned plots.
I am in the process of preparing for a Longest Night worship service and in reading this Psalm I was struck by how it matched my gut feelings this Advent. Every day the news is filled with stories from around the world of someone killing someone one else, often many someone’s. Just last night news came of a hostage situation in Sidney, Australia, just one more story to add to the Ferguson, New Town, Cleveland, Seattle, Portland, Houston, Afghanistan, and Iraq stories of the last number of years. The list is too long, too many people have died, and too many children have died. Like the Psalmist I am left wondering “where are you God.”
3-4 The wicked are windbags, the swindlers have foul breath.
The wicked snub God, their noses stuck high in the air.
Their graffiti are scrawled on the walls: “Catch us if you can!” “God is dead.”
This is supposed to be a time of joy and celebration but I do not feel like celebrating. Our elected leader’s mouth words from the Bible I read every day, yet, their actions tell me they do not believe what they speak. Are they wicked? Are they windbags? Well the wicked part can only be determined by God but the windbag part . . .. Yes they are windbags, hoping that we who at least try to live a life of compassion will not notice their plans to take the last ounce of God’s abundance all for themselves. They write bills and say “try and stop me, from denying the basic necessities to those who cannot help being poor, sick, elderly, or a child.
5-6 They care nothing for what you think; if you get in their way, they blow you off.
They live (they think) a charmed life: “We can’t go wrong. This is our lucky year!”
These insufferable, so called leaders lie and twist the truth until even the best of us are confused and dazed by the avalanche of untruths they let loose on the public. Whether they are religious fundamentalist, political leaders, in the United States, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, British Isles or anywhere they claim the spotlight and they believe no one can stop them. They are on a role and the rest of us “be damned.”
7-8 They carry a mouthful of hexes, their tongues spit venom like adders.
They hide behind ordinary people, then pounce on their victims.
9 They mark the luckless, then wait like a hunter in a blind;
When the poor wretch wanders too close, they stab him in the back.
10-11 The hapless fool is kicked to the ground, the unlucky victim is brutally axed.
He thinks God has dumped him, he’s sure that God is indifferent to his plight.
The words they spit from their mouths cause fear in those who have minds that are weak and malleable. Letting these poor souls do the violence they pretend to abhor only to turn on them when they caught in their snares.
12-13 Time to get up, God—get moving.
The luckless think they’re Godforsaken.
They wonder why the wicked scorn God
and get away with it,
Why the wicked are so cocksure
they’ll never come up for audit.
We wait for you O God to respond, to let us know you haven’t forgotten us. We wait and we wait.
14 But you know all about it— the contempt, the abuse.
I dare to believe that the luckless will get lucky someday in you.
You won’t let them down: orphans won’t be orphans forever.
The Psalmist sings of your knowledge of the violence we see every day. But do you really hear the cries of the children who have lost limbs to bombs, to parents who have watched as their children are killed in front of them, as ISIS hangs those with different beliefs, as children shoot children? Have we not sent enough children, parents, loved ones to you to serve as a sacrifice? Do you care?
15-16 Break the wicked right arms, break all the evil left arms.
Search and destroy every sign of crime.
God’s grace and order wins; godlessness loses.
My heart wants to believe as the Psalmist did that you will intervene in the bloodletting of this world, but I know you will not. It is not up to you, O God, to set this world back on the track of compassion, justice and peace. That really is our job. We are the ones who created these people who mock everything you have wanted for all. We are the ones who must “gird up our loins” and speak out against injustice, violence, hatred, and war. Only we who believe in justice, mercy, kindness, peace, compassion will change the lives of those who are oppressed, abused, injured, and starved by those who mock the world as you, O God, planned it. We must stop cowering in our homes and our places of faith and become the prophets, the messengers, the hands, feet and voice that will bring down those who would enslave us to a life of poverty and misery. Then, and only then, will the Psalmist’s dream come true.
17-18 The victim’s faint pulse picks up; the hearts of the hopeless pump red blood as you put your ear to their lips.
Orphans get parents, the homeless get homes.
The reign of terror is over, the rule of the gang lords is ended.
Gracious Spirit I thank you for this time of blessed meditation. May the words and images I have seen transform my actions into walking with you in greater joy. AMEN
Practicing Lectio Divina
Choose the portion of the Scripture you wish to pray.
Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent, focus for a few moments on your breathing.
Read the chosen text through, slowly and gently. Listen to yourself read, let yourself to savor each word and phrase.
Read the text a second time. What words or phrases stick out for you? Remember God speaks to us in silence and in our listening. The words that pop out do so for a reason, pay attention to them.
Read the text a third time. Are there any other words that speak to you?
Sit now in silence, letting the words you have heard, speak to you and for you in your prayer, your conversation with God. What images, ideas, words spring forward? Or maybe all of them are present in mediation. Sit with those insights as you experience the presence of God. Give your insights to God. Do the insights give you new meaning or transformation of your actions, or prayer life?
Now rest in God’s arms. Let God’s presence give you comfort. Do you feel the pull to return to your meditations? Then begin again. If not close with a prayer of gratitude for the time you have spent in God’s presence and the insights you have received.