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Pocket Prayers

Pocket prayers are little words or phrases that we breathe in and absorb. Like little bite sized prayers for ourselves and others. Then when we feel their truth living within us, we may want to thank God or ask for the grace to pay forward what we gained.

So take whatever word or phrase or idea that calls to you, write it on a business card or the back of an envelope, something you can take with you. Or tape it somewhere you will see it this week. Listen for God’s message to you in these words.

Take your extraordinary life and place it before God as an offering!

What you say to another is eternal.

They gave witness that God was their rock, the High God was their Redeemer.

Take me by the hand. Lead me down the path of truth.

From now on every road you will travel will take you to God.

God is all mercy and grace–not quick to anger, is rich in love.

Let them praise his name in dance; strike up the band and make great music.

And a bonus quote: from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear and, in the long run, easier.”

Reflections on these verses:

Which word or phrase or idea reaches out to you?
Why?

What happens for you when you choose just a word or two and let it soak more deeply into your life?

What words from God are you hungry for?

How does God’s love show itself most in your life?

Beatitudes: Matthew 5:3-11

Blessed Are The Meek

 

Verse 5:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (NRSV)

 

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. (The Message)

 

Happy are those who have softened what is rigid within; they shall receive physical vigor and strength from the universe. (Aramaic)

 

To be meek means to have softened what is rigid within, to be like the fertile soil that receives its nourishment from the rain, allowing it to seep down into its substance. Is there a place within you that is longing to soften and yield? Is there a tender place longing to emerge and be expressed? What is the wisdom the earth has to offer you? Notice what stirs in response, and make room to be present to this experience. (The Artist’s Rule, Christine Paintner)

 

Reflections on this beatitude

Which of the four versions appeals to you now in your life?

What has the word meek meant to you in the past?

What does it mean for you to be meek now?
What is your prayer for yourself and others around this beatitude?

 

 

What is Church? Why Church?

Three essays have come my way that all mention AA/Al Anon as church so I share them all at once. Hmmmm. 

This essay is by Chelsea Forbrook, a thirty-year-old who is an “old soul.” She has been thoughtful about her spiritual journey for several years and has taught workshops with me on “Becoming a Whole Woman” and “Spirituality and Sexuality” at a church we both attend on the North Side of Mpls. 

What is Church: A Place of Radical Hospitality

When I think about the spaces that feel the most sacred to me, they are intentional places and times when people meet together to practice love, acceptance, vulnerability and trust; a place where friendship is genuine and hope in humanity is restored. Part of this hope in humanity is restoring hope for myself. When I find myself in intentionally loving circles, I see that I too have something beautiful to contribute to the process, that I can learn, and encourage others to be their best selves, even as I am trying to discover what that looks like for myself. The following are a few examples of where I experience this.

Last December, I was breaking up with my partner whom I loved dearly, due to their active alcoholism, which was leading to a complete sense of insanity within me. I was crushed, defeated, heartbroken, and panic-stricken. Feeling like a failure, and with nowhere else to turn, I walked through the doors of an Al Anon meeting on Christmas Eve. I was terrified, not knowing anyone, and not even sure the meeting would still be held on this holiday. Three faithful people were gathered in the dingy church basement, waiting, it seemed, just for me. I broke down and cried, and they just let me talk without judgment. They offered their words of courage, strength, and hope based on their similar experiences with alcoholism in their families. They hugged me, connected me to resources, made me laugh. I knew I had landed safely in God’s lap. I was home. They joked about being the only “heathens” in the group because they didn’t celebrate Christmas, but to me, they were the compassionate hands and feet of Jesus, and they truly saved me that night.

Another place I experience complete acceptance is through my amazing group of friends. From the first moment my friend Ryan invited me over to his house to meet all his housemates, I knew I had found my new family. They weren’t exclusive, and immediately made me feel valued and welcome. The first thing they all asked me was not “where do you work?” but instead, “what are you passionate about?” This caught me a bit off guard, but it spurred a lively conversation that is still continuing to this day. There are no prerequisites or qualifications to be included in this friend group, no certain style of dress or ideology which to ascribe. Everyone is intensely unique, and we cheer each other on in our pursuits and beliefs. Within this large network of friends, I am one of only two self-identified Christians. Everyone else is deeply spiritual, and we learn from each other and are curious about each other’s experience and beliefs. We have found that while our religious affiliations are different, our values are the same, the most important being radical hospitality. This means we welcome and integrate everyone who comes through the door, and we welcome all parts of ourselves and others, even the ugly or embarrassing parts, or the times when we make mistakes or are in a bad mood.

The other place where I find Church is at church (surprise!). I oftentimes struggle with the Church because it has a history (and current reality) of being judgmental and exclusive, of prescribing morality and certain lifestyles as a one-size-fits-all model that is damaging to those of us who don’t find ourselves within this small window. Luckily, I have found a church that truly welcomes everyone. Much of the time, I feel like I don’t need Sunday morning worship, because my spiritual needs are met through other means. But there is something unique about gathering together in a group around a common ritual. I don’t even feel it is a common belief that we share, because I know that the theologies represented in the congregation are scattered across a spectrum. For me, that’s ok. It’s the Spirit in that space that matters. It’s singing the familiar songs that get me so choked up that I can no longer sing. It’s knowing that my pastor knows me and loves me, despite my eclectic and radical theology. It’s taking the bread and wine and knowing that my Best Friend is with me. It’s saying the confession, not as a precaution against hell, but as a deterrent to my self-righteousness and in solidarity with all of a suffering humanity. It’s seeing my friends, and also some annoying people, and committing to be in relationship with them all. It’s having an opportunity to work as a collective force against societal injustices. This type of Church is a great and powerful Mystery.

The last place I find Church is in meditation. It is here that I enter into relationship with my inner being and have an opportunity to practice loving and accepting myself. Just like the radical hospitality practiced in my Al Anon group, my friend group, and my church, sitting in mindful meditation is sometimes difficult. At first glance, there are unwelcome visitors (thoughts based on selfishness, fear, or cruelty), but when I take the time to get to know them, they all have a lesson to teach. There is a house in my heart built for My Friend, and when I dive into intentional contact with my inner self, it is a deeper relationship with God that I find, a God who loves me unconditionally.

 

 

This essay is by Rev. Dr. Keith Meyer, a long-term pastor, author and pastor to pastors. He has served in mega churches and small parishes. His heart is all about stretching himself and his flock to be more radical in their love for God and neighbor.

 

What is Church? Why Church?

I have more of an idea of what church isn’t – but after 36 years of being a pastor or attendee of 6 churches and everything from higher church Anglican to low Mega-church Independent, I have an idea of what it might be and occasionally, I think have experienced it.

As a kid I was taught a fun little hand trick to remember what church is. You took the five fingers of each hand and intertwined them and then closed your hands to make a fist with the thumbs straight up. Your hands now looked like a typical church building with a steeple. You held your little church hand up, a performance art piece, for you and others to see and you recited, “Here is the church, there is the steeple.” Then you opened up your hands and turned them upside down so your intertwined fingers stood up and closed with “open the doors and here are the people.” Is that church? Don’t think so. So what is it?

Church is not a building. Not a gathering of people at 11AM or an organization with programs, or a denominational identity, although they might have these, they don’t guarantee church is there or happening. My sons don’t go to this kind of church. They go regularly to a meeting where other drug and chemically dependent people tell their deepest secrets, practice steps of spiritual growth with a mentor, and cultivate gratitude and humility, and dependence on God and service to others rather than alcohol or drugs. Recently they have been working on emotional sobriety – not being driven by their fears or their pride. I think this is church to the power of what God intended or at least embodies whatever and whoever first thought synagogue in the Messiah could look like. I think you could go to such a group for an hour and grow more than going to a million typical church services.

Church is not the Kingdom of God. That means it isn’t all that God is doing – he is wherever he is wanted. I am really distrustful when I hear a Pastor say that their church is bringing the Kingdom. It is always less than, by a great deal, what it looks like when God’s will is effectively done. And it often means that the Pastor’s organization is a small “k” kingdom of his or her own and is put before God’s actual Kingdom rule.

Church is not a perfect place. Where I think I have been in it…It has wrinkles no one seems to be able to iron out, spots that can’t be laundered and yet, when in spite of itself, it shines with the unfailing love, compassion and Kingdom dream of God for human beings it seems like it is following a calling out of this dark fallen world…and sadly, out of many churches that stifle that calling… to live in the light of God’s presence and power – I think that might be what Paul and the Apostles had in mind when they described what they termed, ecclesia, the “called out ones”. And it may have been what Jesus had in mind for his disciples after his little band of 12 began to go back to bring Jesus’ message to those early and various synagogues, or God-fearing Gentile seekers gathered together. Called out ones…out of hate, fear, death, darkness into Jesus’ light and love, hope, resurrection and a sign of a new kind of humanity.

So, what is church? Why church? Seems like any group of people called to live in the life of the Kingdom of God as best they can by God’s grace, forgiving each other and offering that kind of life to others as a sign of what a new world might be where Jesus would feel at home…even with just two or more, and people thrive and flourish…a family, best friends, and yes…maybe even a typical church.

 

 

And this essay is by Frederick Buechner, which is so fortuitous. I read it the same week that Chelsea sent me her essay. I love how that works out. Buechner is an author and chaplain. This is from his book, Whistling in the Dark, pp. 4-5.

 

AA and Church

Alcoholics Anonymous or A.A. is the name of a group of men and women who acknowledge that addiction to alcohol is ruining their lives. Their purpose in coming together is to give it up and help others do the same. They realize they can’t pull this off by themselves. They believe they need each other, and they believe they need God. The ones who aren’t so sure about God speak instead of their Higher Power.

When they first start talking at a meeting, they introduce themselves by saying, “I am John. I am an alcoholic,” “I am Mary. I am an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group answers each time in unison, “Hi, John,” “Hi, Mary.” They are apt to end with the Lord’s Prayer or the Serenity Prayer. Apart from that they have no ritual. They have no hierarchy. They have no dues or budget. They do not advertise or proselytize. Having no buildings of their own, they meet wherever they can.

Nobody lectures them, and they do not lecture each other. They simply tell their own stories with the candor that anonymity makes possible. They tell where they went wrong and how day by day they are trying to go right. They tell where they find the strength and understanding and hope to keep trying. Sometimes one of them will take special responsibility for another—to be available at any hour of day or night if the need arises. There’s not much more to it than that, and it seems to be enough. Healing happens. Miracles are made.

You can’t help thinking that something like this is what the Church is meant to be and maybe once was before it got to be Big Business. Sinners Anonymous. “I can will what is right but I cannot do it,” is the way Saint Paul put it, speaking for all of us. “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19).

“I am me. I am a sinner.”

“Hi, you.”

Hi, every Sadie and Sal. Hi, every Tom, Dick and Harry. It is the forgiveness of sins, of course. It is what the Church is all about.

No matter what far place alcoholics end up in, either in this country or virtually anywhere else, they know that there will be an A.A. meeting nearby to go to and that at that meeting they will find strangers who are not strangers to help and to heal, to listen to the truth and to tell it. That is what the Body of Christ is all about.

Would it ever occur to Christians in a far place to turn to a church nearby in hope of finding the same? Would they find it? If not, you wonder what is so Big about the Church’s Business.

 

Reflections on these essays

Where do you find that place in which you can be real, honest and vulnerable; fully embraced for who you are without judgment?

Where would you go on Christmas Eve if you had a crisis in your life?

How does God’s kingdom show itself in your life?

 

Friends,

A few weeks ago I published several sentences or words from scripture, from the weekly lectionary, that you could choose for your pocket prayers. This is how I use them:  I just write one word or a phrase that stands out to me on a small card. I put it where I will notice it, like in my calendar or in my purse or on a mirror or in a pocket. I just want to stay with this one word or phrase and see what happens in my life, see what else comes up that will illuminate this word in my life. Sometimes I keep just one verse for months, even years. I’ve been living with one verse for more than ten years now and I still see it moving in my life.

Here are my options for you for this week. Just see what happens. I even included a few options for those of us who admit to being clutter freaks!

Janet

 

Ponder the rock from which you were cut.

Their grip is broken. We’re free as a bird in flight.

“Thank you!” Everything in me says, “Thank you!” Angels listen as I sing my thanks.

Keep your eyes open for God. Watch for his works. Be alert for signs of his presence. Remember the world of wonders he has made.

Love from the center of who you are. Don’t fake it.

(And for those of us who clutter:-) )   Give me a bent for your words of wisdom, and not for piling up loot. Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets. Invigorate me on the pilgrim way. Let your love, God, shape my life.

 

Reflections on this exercise

How does it work for you to concentrate on one verse or word or phrase for a week?

What is God saying to you about the word or phrase you chose?

What is the gift in this exercise for you?

 

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